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Nation's No. 1 preps for a huge tourney

Posted: April 18, 2008 1:53 a.m.
Updated: June 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Valencia's Jon Griffith rises up and slams a kill in the third game of the Vikings 3-0 win over West Ranch Thursday night at Valencia High. Griffith finished with a match high nine kills.

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With a big weekend tournament coming in Santa Barbara, it would have been easy for Valencia to overlook its Foothill league match Thursday against West Ranch.

However, the Vikings stayed focused on the present and wasted little time defeating the Wildcats Thursday night at Valencia, sweeping West Ranch in three games 25-9, 25-22, 25-16.

"I think they are excited about this weekend," said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen. "We weren't looking past today, but this was a good tuneup for us."

Valencia (16-1, 6-0) came out all business in the first game, starting the match with all six starters on the floor - something that hadn't been done in a while.

Valencia's Jamey Ker got the match started with a tip kill over the block of the Wildcats and set the tone for the game.
Ker added two more kills to make it 10-4, and later Jake Piva drilled an ace for an 18-6 lead and the Vikings cruised to a 25-9 win.

"We want to start the second half of the season well and just finish it out like we started our season," Piva said.
For the Wildcats (10-6, 4-2), however, it was a different story.

"It just seemed like we didn't want to play (to start the game). We were intimidated out there," said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. "They just served us off the court as well. They served extremely well."

In the second game, though, it was West Ranch that used the return of two of its starters, Austin Peck and Matt Pudimott, to keep it close all game before ultimately falling by three.

The difference was simple, according to Sparks.

"We actually passed the ball well. If we can pass the ball well we get the good set and we can put the ball away," Sparks said. "But, if we don't pass well, it's just a downward spiral."

The Wildcats went on a 5-1 run capped by a huge Reese Barbour block of Skyler Seymour to bring West Ranch within one at 21-20.

A net serve by Pudimott gave it right back, and a kill from Seymour sealed the game 25-22.

Ker opened the third game with seven straight serves giving Valencia a 7-0 lead on the way to an easy 25-16 victory and three-game sweep.

"We can't look past anybody, especially West Ranch with its best players back" said Viking Jim Baughman.

Now, though, the Vikings can focus their attention on the Santa Barbara tournament where they will be facing some of the best competition in the nation.

Valencia, however, will enter with a big bull's-eye on its back in the form of the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

That won't slow expectations though.

"I want to win the tournament," Knudsen said. "I want to see us play smooth and get better as the tournament progresses."

The players have high hopes as well.

"We are No. 1 in the nation, we know we are going to be top dog so everyone is gunning for us," Piva said. "We just have to stay focused throughout the day."

West Ranch will also travel to the tournament after grabbing a last-minute open spot.

"I just want us to get together as a team and beat some of the top teams in the nation," Sparks said. "I want to compete against the best."

Both teams return to Foothill League action next Tuesday.

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