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The other Valencia No. 1 team

Posted: March 7, 2008 2:53 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
If you weren't paying attention, you might not see a big statement in little writing on the scoreboard in the Valencia High gym.

Underneath all the players and coaches names for the Vikings boys volleyball team, there's one last bit of information.

"Ranked number one in the nation."

Valencia was given such a distinction by StudentSportsVolleyball.com in its preseason poll of the top 50 teams nationally.

"We're pretty excited about it. We try not to let it go to our head," said Viking Jamey Ker, who is headed to UCLA next season.

The Vikings are off to a 1-0 start after a three-game sweep of Westlake on Wednesday. It taught them a valuable lesson early on.

"We realized we're not going to be able to roll over everyone," Ker said. "We like being No. 1, but we have to prove it."

Head coach Mark Knudsen has the luxury of 10 seniors out of 14 players on the roster and has all of his starters returning except at the setter position. Stepping in will be Derek Trent (Long Beach State commit), a transfer from Bakersfield and Gio Botten, who will be splitting time at the position.

"We have potentially six of our eight guys who are more or less in division one schools," Knudsen said. "There's a lot of talent on this team. The fact we have this talent and it meshes so well, we've just got a great mix. It's coming together so well right now. I think we have an opportunity to do something really, really special."

Valencia (1-0) will have its place at the top put to the test early.

Today the team travels to San Diego to compete in the Best of the West Boys Volleyball Invitational, which is hosted by Poway High. It draws many of the top teams from all over California and a team from Hawaii.

Should the Vikings move all the way through to the championship final, it would set up a potential showdown with the No. 2 team in the country, Mira Costa.

"It's going to be very competitive. It's going to be a great test for us," Knudsen said. "Even though these guys have a lot of experience, it's a new mix when you put these guys on the court together. After this weekend we should be a lot smoother."

Though it's an experienced and senior-laden team, there is only one player on the team who was around for the 2006 title run.

It's not sitting well with the Vikings. They've made CIF-Southern Section Division II finals six of the last seven years, but took an exit in the semifinals last year.

"No matter how young we were, I think we could have finished a lot better last year," said senior Jim Baughman.

So now is the time for this senior class.

It's a team with balance and experience. So much so, that neither Knudsen or Ker can pinpoint one thing the team does exceptionally well over anything else.

Of course, with the No. 1 national ranking comes an enormous target on the Vikings' backs.

"Obviously we have to live up to it," Knudsen said. "It's a nice honor, a nice confirmation. We have real potential to have a great season."

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