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CIF volleyball: Vikes hit familiar wall

Valencia ousted in quarterfinals for third straight season, lose heartbreaker to Beckman of Irvine

Posted: May 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

IRVINE - For a program like Valencia boys volleyball, watching a season come to an end in any match other than a CIF championship is a disappointment.

Losing the way it did on Saturday night just adds to the heartbreak.

In a contest full of momentum shifts and plenty of excitement for both sides, the Vikings fell short 3-2 to Beckman High of Irvine at Beckman High School.

Beckman's win by scores of 24-26, 25-20, 25-22, 23-25 and 15-11 knocked Valencia out in the CIF-Southern Section Division II quarterfinals for the third straight year.

"We got better as the year went on, which is good ... I just didn't want it to end like this," said Valencia senior Broc Oppler, who had 16 blocks, four blocks and three aces.

Eric Ensing led the Vikings with 18 kills in Valencia's 11th straight appearance in a CIF quarterfinal.

The experience showed in the team's ability to claw back into the match after falling behind 2-1 in games.

In the fifth game, the Vikings trailed 10-4 quickly thanks to the Patriots' nearly unstoppable defense.

Valencia (21-8) scored four straight points after that and nearly closed the gap, but the Patriots (15-6) carried the margin into the semifinals.

"It's unfortunate we got ourselves into that situation, but (Beckman) just came out with a little more fire," said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen of the fifth game.

A good portion of that fire came from UCLA-bound senior Chris Long, who single-handedly changed the course of the match after the Vikings won the opening game.

Long not only hit the ball with crushing power, he contributed on the block for Beckman as well. He tallied a match-high 25 kills.

"He was a very aggressive attacker. He really went after the ball," Knudsen said. "Even when we were there, he still hit it through us."

Toward the end of game 3, the Valencia front row started to figure Long out and managed to neutralize Long's attack.

"It was getting a little tougher," Long said. "They were doing a good job stopping me, so I just tried to change my hits a little bit."

The changes were just enough to give Beckman the edge in the end.

"We definitely had the talent. We had the intensity," said Valencia middle blocker Daniel Salovich, who had a team-high five blocks. "It's those key moments where you've got to pull it out."

In game 1, Valencia seemed capitalized on a key moment of its own after trailing 24-21.

The Vikings fought off all three game-point attempts and scored five straight points to win it.

"Anything can happen in this game," said Beckman head coach Darin McBain. "Momentum changes so quickly.

The Vikings lose seven seniors to graduation, including setter Shane Nazarian, who assisted 45 points, and Kurt Fults, who landed 10 kills.



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