With a skein of incredibly exciting playoff victories over the last two weeks, the Samohi men’s varsity volleyball team earned a berth in last Saturday’s CIF Southern Division III championships, where the Vikings were bested by Valley Christian of Cerritos three games to one. It was a repeat visit to the finals for the Vikings, reigning CIF champions.
With five starting seniors on the ’06 squad lost to graduation, many assumed that ’07 would be a rebuilding year for Viking men’s volleyball. Apparently nobody bothered to tell head coach Liane Sato, nor her spirited squad who played well throughout the regular season. In the playoffs, the Vikings worked their way to an away-game quarterfinals where they defeated Campbell Hall High School in an intense match that went to a fifth game tie-breaker.
In the semifinals, the Vikings hosted Paraclete Catholic High School of Antelope Valley and once again endured an intense match that went to the fifth game tie-breaker before a boisterous home crowd at North Gym. Paraclete won the first game, 25-16. Santa Monica bounced back and won the second game, 25-22, and the third game 25-21. Paraclete then tied the match, winning the fourth game, 25-23. The Vikings re-grouped and dispatched Paraclete in the tie-breaker, 15-6, to win the match and advance to the championship round.
Several hundred Viking faithful trekked to Cerritos College for the championship match against Valley Christian on Saturday, May 26. It started strongly for the Vikings, who won the first game handily, 25-21. Junior Greg Wilson paced the Vikings with huge hitting, while seniors Ari Feldman, a front row phenom, and Alex Silver, setter, helped dominate. In the second game, the Vikings fell behind early and never got control, losing by five points. The third and fourth games were well played by both teams, and both games were decided in favor of Valley Christian in overtime scores of 26-24. It could not have been any closer.
In addition to Wilson, Feldman and Silver, Viking volleyballers Tucker Hodges, Willie Goetz, True Shields, Nick Leonard, Nick Franks and David Frazan saw extensive action. Additional varsity squad members include Matthew Silver, Josh Tillipman, Kevin Sheftel, Alex McRitchie and Michael Black. In addition to Sato, a former member of the U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball team, coaches include Pete Barraza and Nguyen Trinh.
There was a time over a generation ago when Santa Monica dominated CIF men’s volleyball. Last year’s championship was the first for the Vikings in 27 years. Under Sato, the Vikings have now worked their way deep into the playoffs each of the last three years. The ’05 team, unranked, surprised everyone by making it to the quarterfinals. Now, in each of the last two years, Samohi has worked its way to the championship match.