Santa Monica High School wasted no time in becoming a beach volleyball powerhouse.
In just their second year of existence, the Vikings stormed into the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League playoffs as the top seed after a standout season in conference play.
The Samohi boys handled Thousand Oaks in a 3-0 sweep Wednesday afternoon in a first-round matchup on the sand at Annenberg Community Beach House.
That victory vaulted the Vikings into the quarterfinals, which will be held Saturday morning on the Ocean Park courts. They are scheduled to face Los Angeles-Loyola at 9 a.m. The semifinal and championship matches will be held later that day.
The postseason serves as an opportunity for validation for coach Kurt Schwengel’s team, which has its sights set on an IBVL title after taking first place in the vaunted Bay League with a 6-1 record.
“For us to win that league was pretty awesome,” Schwengel said. “And we’re the number-one seed, so anything short of the IBVL championship would be an upset.”
Schwengel said it will likely come down to Samohi and conference rival Mira Costa in the finals, although he added that it’s important for his players not to overlook the competition in the two preceding matches. The Vikings suffered their only league loss at the hands of Mira Costa, but they won the second meeting.
They secured two wins against Redondo Beach-Redondo Union, last year’s IBVL champion.
“Because of our league championship, we got a really good seed, so it would be easy to look past our next two matches,” Schwengel said. “We’re going to have to work hard to beat three teams. We’re taking it one match at a time.”
It helps Samohi that it has arguably one of the best pairs in the region in senior Rowdy Lennon and junior John Schwengel, the coach’s son. The duo has gone undefeated this season without dropping a single game, never needing a third set.
“We knew that would be one of the top teams,” the coach said. “They’ve played a lot, and they’ve played lots together.”
Lennon and Schwengel will likely claim the No. 1 seed in the pair championships, which will be held separately from the team playoffs in a few weeks.
In the meantime, the two standout players are focused on strengthening Santa Monica’s reputation as a beach volleyball hotbed.
The local high school has already made a name for itself in the two years since the elder Schwengel launched the beach volleyball program. He noted Samohi’s rich volleyball history and felt it was odd that the Vikings didn’t have a beach team.
With Schwengel’s help, Samohi has gone from absentee to contender. The girls beach volleyball team took third place in last year’s IBVL playoffs, and the boys returned four varsity players from last year’s inaugural squad.
“We’re still a young team,” he said. “But it’s exciting to see Santa Monica become a volleyball school again.”
Courtesy photo: The Samohi boys beach volleyball team earned the No. 1 seed in the IBVL playoffs after winning the Bay League. Pictured are Jake Mitchell (left), Alex Wessel, Jono Pritchard, coach Kurt Schwengel, Zac Pittard, Johnny Wilson, Sam Whittert, Rowdy Lennon and John Schwengel.