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Foothill League boys volleyball: Still Vi-kings

Valencia pushes title streak to 10

Posted: May 6, 2010 11:07 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Valencia's Steven Crane (12), Griffin Nichols (20) and Broc Oppler (21) make a block on Thursday as Hart's Taylor Gregory, bottom left, and Tim Jenkins look on during the Vikings' 3-0 win. With the victory, Valencia won its eighth straight league title.

 

Heading into the final match of the season, it was clear what was at stake for the Valencia boys volleyball team — keep the winning streak alive and the Foothill League title streak intact.

With a 3-0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-23) victory over the Hart Indians on Thursday night at Hart High, the Vikings won for the 92nd straight time and left with a 10th straight league title.

“It’s a streak of excellence,” said Valencia’s Daniel Johnson. “We had to keep it going.”

The Vikings were ready.

“I didn’t really have to tell them anything,” said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen. “They knew the importance of this game for the program.”

The match started off slow with both teams making multiple unforced errors in the first game and neither getting any real momentum aside from Valencia’s opening 8-3 run.

After that, both teams struggled to even get a serve in.

“It was really emotional for the players on both sides because we all play club together and we both were talking all week long,” Johnson said. “We both really wanted it and just got nervous to start.”

Valencia finally closed the game out thanks to a monster kill from Josh Duarte to win 25-20 and take momentum into the second game.

The Vikings started slow in the second game, but then turned it on late with a lot of help from unforced errors from the Indians.

Heading into the match, Hart was coming off some solid practices according to head coach Mary Keen, but it didn’t quite show in the first two games.

“I was completely surprised by our performances,” Keen said. “Our guys felt good in practice yesterday so its’ shocking to see the stats.”

Valencia ended the second game on an 11-3 run capped by another Duarte kill to close it out.

In the third, Hart finally starting putting it together thanks to some changes in its lineup.

“Oddly enough, in game three, I changed my lineup and moved three major positions,” Keen said. “I think it worked because they were focused on themselves instead of the other team.”

However, the Vikings had just enough to outlast the Indians.

After taking a 24-20 lead, Valencia showed some nerves and almost let Hart seize the game.

“The seniors were all talking about this being our last points in league and we got antsy and got sloppy,” Johnson said.

After a couple simple errors from the Vikings, it was 24-23 Valencia.

But it was Hart with all the momentum. Fortunately for the Vikings, Duarte smashed his third straight game-ending kill to conclude the match.

Afterward, Knudsen, who has been at the helm of eight titles (in 2001 Kevin Kornegay led Valencia to a title and in 2002 Walt Ker guided the team to a championship) , pushed the praise on his players and explained how Valencia keeps it going.

“It just means I’ve had the privilege to coach a lot of great players and great teams,” he said. “It’s one of those things, once you start tasting it, it gets more and more exciting as we get closer to each record. We just want to keep winning here.”

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