One terrific and memorable season for the Classical boys’ volleyball team finally came to an end on May 26. It was on that date that the Caimans, who had already previously downed two of the top three seeds in the CIF SoCal Division II Championships, fell to No. 1 seed Orange Lutheran by a count of 13-25, 17-25 and 18-25 in the Regional Final.
And though that setback to the touted Lancers snapped the Caimans’ eight-game winning streak, Classical’s final overall record nonetheless looked mighty impressive at 28-8. Another indicator of the Caimans’ year-long excellence was the fact that during the season they had captured 72 sets while dropping just 30.
Coach Jo Milo’s team came into the second-tier of the postseason on a roll, having won a San Diego Section title for the second straight year. But if they were to make additional noise in the CIF SoCal tourney, they would have to do so on the road against higher-seeded foes. However, the Caimans had fashioned a notable 23-8 ledger away from home and were intent on once again proving themselves to be accomplished road warriors.
Traveling north to take on Downey High (No. 3 seed) in the first round, Classical (seeded 6th) got the jump on the Vikings with a hard-fought 25-22 win in the first set. And then after the hosts evened things with a victory in the second game, the Caimans turned tenacious and pulled things out by delivering in the clutch with 25-23 and 25-21 successes in the final two sets.
Two days later on May 24 in the Regional Semi-Finals, it was No. 2 seed Saddleback Valley Christian who provided the opposition in what would turn out to be a barnburner – not to mention an instant classic. On this occasion it was the Caimans who dropped the first set but then they rallied sharply with tough 25-20 and 25-23 set wins to forge ahead. But the Warriors weren’t about to go quietly into the night in front of their raucous home fans and rebounded to square matters by copping another game of their own. That set the stage for a tense and action-packed finish and when it came down to crunch time, the Caimans simply refused to wilt and thereby endured to eke out a 17-15 conquest in the fifth and deciding set.
Now it was on to the Regional Finals where top dog Orange Lutheran was lying in wait. And though Milo’s crew competed hard, the Lancers more than justified their reputation and seeding by taking three straight games en route to a victory that kept their chance at a State title very much alive.
So a volleyball season that had rightfully earned an unforgettable niche in Classical athletic lore has been put to bed. And as it passes into history so too do a host of talented and resourceful seniors like super swatter Christian Nowtash, setter supreme Evan Lipe, the dynamic Jacob Champlin, dangerous opposite Michael Pierce, mighty middle Aaron Packer, utility whiz Bradley Paloncic and standout libero Steven Richter. These were the players who coalesced and came together to form the heartbeat and core of a team that rose to some very majestic heights.
They have set a lofty standard that those that follow in their footsteps will be hard-pressed to match. In other words, those eight were pretty darn great!