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Foothill League boys volleyball: Scared straight

Grizzlies win a game, but Valencia recovers

Posted: April 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley’s Andrew Raulinaitis, left, attempts a kill as Valencia’s Shane Nazarian (25) and Daniel Salovich (34) try to block on Thursday at Golden Valley. The Vikings won 3-1.

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Valencia boys volleyball knows it has a target on its back against Foothill League opponents.

Winning the last 10 league titles and 93 straight league matches will do that.

On Thursday, it was Golden Valley taking aim at the target, but after nearly falling behind by a game, the Vikings settled down to take the match 3-1 at Golden Valley High School.

With game scores of 25-12, 24-26, 26-24 and 25-15, the Vikings survived their first test of the season and kept the streak alive at 94.

“That whole match is how we’ve been playing this year,” said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen. “We have ups and downs. We play strong and confident at points, but we also make a lot of mistakes at other points.”

Many of the mistakes for Valencia (7-5, 2-0) came on serves and constituted the initial spark for the Grizzlies’ run in the second and third games.

Keyed by a strong net presence and powerful hitting, Golden Valley (10-6, 1-1) hung on to win game 2.

In the following game, the teams once again found themselves in a 24-24 tie, but it was Valencia players Eric Ensing and Broc Oppler that came up with a pair of kills to finish it off.

Oppler finished with a match-high 22 kills, and Ensing added 10.

“We’ve got to stay in the game,” Oppler said. “We can’t let the pressure get to us.”

After closing out the third game, the Vikings didn’t.

They came into the final game much like they did the first — with dominant serving and strong defense.

By way of Oppler’s serving, Valencia went up 5-0 to start the fourth game and later increased the lead to 10-1.

The Vikings didn’t look back after that.

“It was two good, mentally strong teams playing against each other,” said Golden Valley head coach Jeff Cody. “I can’t complain at all. We played great against a great team.”

In the opening game, both teams started slow with serving and attacking errors.

Once Valencia’s serving got going, though, the Grizzlies struggled to get into any kind of system as they watched the game slip away.

What put the Vikings up one game is precisely what cost them in the second. They committed 11 service errors compared to six aces throughout the match, and many of the errors came at key moments.

“When the problem is on our side of the court, I feel like we can overcome it,” Knudsen said.

Golden Valley opposite Ryan Kessler slammed a kill through the Valencia block to give his team a 25-24 lead in game 2, which led to a game-clinching net violation committed by the Vikings.

Kessler led the Grizzlies with 12 kills.

Valencia libero Griffin Ender had a match-high 20 digs, and teammate Shane Nazarian tallied 48 assists.

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