The Santa Monica High School Vikings men’s varsity volleyball team won the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division III Championship with a three-games-to-one match win over Costa Mesa, held at Cypress College. It was Samohi’s first CIF Southern Section Championship in any sport since the football team won their division in 2001. It has been 27 years since the last Samohi team took top CIF honors in volleyball.
The win crowned a stellar season for the team, who went undefeated in Ocean League play and entered the Division III playoffs as top seed. The Vikings sailed to easy wins in their first three single elimination playoff matches. The real test came in the semi-finals, an away game at Downey High School on May 24th. Assisted by a boisterous home crowd, Downey battled the Vikings to two games each, forcing a fifth game match tiebreaker. Samohi regrouped and won the fifth game to advance to the CIF championship battle with Costa Mesa.
At the final, the Vikings were quick to play their power game against Costa Mesa and convincingly won the first two games with identical scores 25-16. Costa Mesa rebounded in the third game and won 25-21. In the fourth game, Costa Mesa’s momentum continued early on and at one point they enjoyed a five-point advantage, 12-7. Undeterred, the Vikings battled back with strong front row defense, no service errors and superior hitting and tied the game 16-16. From there on the two teams traded the lead until Samohi pulled away with three straight points to take the game, and the CIF Division III Championship, 25-22.
Leading the Viking charge at Cypress, indeed all season, was a nucleus of four seniors who have seen extensive varsity action over the last three years (including a playoffs run to the semi-finals in 2005). Team Captain Fred McLafferty, who earned all Ocean League first team honors last season, was at the top of his game Saturday – setting for the Vikings and coordinating the team’s offense and defense. (McLafferty happens to be the son of Julia Brownley, School Board President and current Democratic candidate for State Assembly). Right-handed hitter Neil Cline and left-handed hitter Michael Campbell played every minute of the contest and dominated the match with powerful, accurate slams. Back row passing specialist Bronson Oliviera played superb defense.
A fifth senior, Alex Bon, also started for the Vikings and helped dominate at the net. Bon is a top ranked golfer in CIF and this year he received permission from his Samohi coaches to play both golf and volleyball during the spring. Junior Ari Feldman, one of the tallest players on the squad, started in the front row and played terrific defense. True Shields, a sophomore, completed the starting seven and was quick to ball all day long. In game four, sophomore Greg Wilson took the floor and was instrumental in shifting the momentum to the Vikings’ favor and bringing home victory.
Additional varsity players on this year’s championship team include; David Farzam, Moosa Glickman, Willie Goetz, David Kim, Nick Leonard, Alex Silver and Richard Wong.
Head coach of the CIF Champion Vikings is Liane Sato, a former member of the U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball team. Additional coaches include Pete Barraza and Nguyen Trinh. Athletic trainer Julie Honda completes the support staff.
A large and enthusiastic band of Viking fans trekked to Cypress College on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to support their team and when the final point was scored, pandemonium erupted. Now it is time to hang a new CIF Volleyball Championship banner in Samohi’s North Gym – twenty-seven years is a long drought.