CYPRESS COLLEGE — It was just one time-out call, but it may have saved the Vikings’ season.
Down a game and facing a deficit in the second, Santa Monica High School’s boys’ volleyball head coach Liane Sato decided she had seen enough.
She huddled her players, telling them to relax and play their game. It must have worked as the Vikings rallied to win that game and take the next two from San Gabriel to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship on Saturday at Cypress College. It’s the school’s first title in the sport since 2006. Sato also coached that team.
“We just came out way too hyped,” Samohi senior Julian Hess said. “[Coach Sato] just told us to push up on the block and play our game.”
Sato’s time-out ultimately paid off for the Vikings who won the match in four games; 22-25, 28-26, 25-21 and 25-23.
In defeat, it was obvious San Gabriel, winners of the Almont League, came to play against the No. 1 seeded Vikings. Led by outside hitter Kevin Quach and his 19 kills, the Matadors raced out to a 7-2 lead in the first game as the Vikings struggled to find a rhythm. San Gabriel would win the game, putting the Vikings on their heels.
It was much the same in the second game as San Gabriel built a lead that, if continued, could have put Samohi in a difficult two-games-to-none hole. It was then that Sato called the time-out that may have saved the day.
“They made the right adjustments,” San Gabriel head coach Chris Kwan said of Samohi. “They are a good team, that’s what happened [in the second game.]”
During that fateful time-out, Kwan told his players that it wasn’t going to be easy. And it proved to be the case as the Vikings rallied to win three games to clinch the title.
“I feel overjoyed for these boys,” Sato said amid a celebration that saw the Viking faithful rush the court to celebrate with their champions. “This is great for them.”
Key to the Vikings’ comeback were team leaders Hess and Charles Levy. The two combined to overpower the San Gabriel front line, which was decidedly undersized, yet feisty enough to earn praise from Sato.
“They were everything I heard about them,” Sato said. “They are the best defense we’ve played all season.”
The win may qualify Samohi for the state tournament, which begins later this week. The team must wait to see if they are in the field.
While the prospect of winning a state title is very much alive, Sato and her players appeared to savor the moment as CIF-SS champs.
“This is what makes it all worth it,” Hess said. “I feel amazing.”