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CIF boys volleyball: Return denied

Vikings miss making first final since 2008 season

Posted: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia’s Eric Ensing (55) shoots between Oak Park’s Bradley Sakaida (10) and Mike Campbell (14) at Oak Park High on Tuesday in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs.

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OAK PARK — Facing top-tier competition was nothing new to Valencia boys volleyball.

What about beating the top-ranked team in CIF-Southern Section Division II, which was firing on all cylinders?

That was asking a lot.

Valencia saw its deepest run in the playoffs since 2008 come to a screeching halt in a 3-0 loss to Oak Park in Tuesday’s Division II semifinal match at Oak Park High.

In a little more than an hour, the Eagles (29-6) put away Valencia by scores of 25-17, 25-21 and 25-13.

“They are a solid team all the way around,” said Vikings senior Griffin Ender. “And they came to play on a night where we didn’t play our best volleyball.”

Valencia (20-14) has faced several highly ranked Division I teams in various tournaments this season, but head coach Kevin Kornegay said senior-heavy Oak Park was as good as any of them.

“They’re right up there,” Kornegay said. “They’ve been together for years and it shows.”

The Eagles went to work quickly, opening up a 13-4 lead in the first game thanks to the lethal hitting combination of Justin Parks, Nick Fahn and Bradley Sakaida.

The three seniors finished with 13, 11 and 10 kills, respectively.

“We don’t have any great players,” said Oak Park head coach Patrick Quinn. “We have a bunch of really good players. We spread it around.”

Once Valencia’s Eric Ensing found his swing and the Vikings adjusted their block, they managed to close the gap to 16-13.

But the Eagles never let Valencia get any closer.

Ensing had a match-high 15 kills, but the rest of the Valencia lineup was mostly held in check.

Daniel Salovich and Spencer Kershner notched five kills apiece for the Vikings.

The best stretch of the match for Valencia came early in the second game, when the defense picked it up and helped build a 12-7 lead.

Valencia was able to nurse the lead until an 18-18 tie was broken by five straight points scored by the Eagles to make it 23-18.

During the run, Parks slammed home two key kills and the Vikings committed a serving and hitting error.

“We’re a hitting and blocking team, and that’s what we live and die by,” Kornegay said.

Game three was the quickest of the match, as the Eagles took their momentum and ran with it, making very few mistakes along the way.

The Vikings weren’t ever able to get the offense off the ground like they had in the three previous rounds of the playoffs.

Oak Park’s powerful and accurate serving made it difficult to set up Valencia’s usual weapons other than Ensing.

“We tried to put three blockers on (Ensing) whenever they had an out-of-system set,” Quinn said.

And that’s exactly what Valencia was most of the night — out of system.

Tuesday marked just the second time Valencia has gone down in the semifinal round, dropping its record to 7-2 all-time.

The Vikings were knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals in each of the three previous seasons.

“We came up a (match) short (of our goal),” Ender said. “I felt like we improved very much throughout the year.”

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