A perfect league record was on the line.
Unable to get into a rhythm early in its regular-season finale, the St. Monica Catholic boys volleyball team didn’t exactly look dominant as it eked out a victory in the opening set.
But it was all smooth sailing after that.
The Mariners cruised to a 3-0 (27-25, 25-13, 25-18) sweep of San Pedro-Mary Star of the Sea on the road May 4, capping an unbeaten, title-winning campaign in conference play.
First-year coach Cori Ueda has overseen a quick transition at St. Monica (16-6, 10-0 in the Camino Real League), which has enjoyed plenty of on-court success after managing just one conference win last year.
The squad has earned a spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs, where it’s pitted against Garden Grove-Pacifica in the first round Tuesday.
At least some of the positive turnaround was likely due to the Mariners’ transition out of the tough Del Rey League, and Ueda acknowledged that a breezy run through conference play has its potential drawbacks.
“We kind of waltzed through league without having to do a lot of work, and that’s going to be a little bit of a detriment going into playoffs,” she said. “Other teams will be gunning for us.”
But Ueda also said the St. Monica boys wouldn’t have run the table in the Camino Real League if they hadn’t altered their approach and worked on their skills.
“They were a little more motivated this year,” she said. “They did a lot of research. Any video that I thought might be helpful for them to watch, they were open to. They did a lot of that on their own. We did set goals at the beginning of the season, and I think that really helped too.”
The Mariners haven’t lost since their final preseason match, a 3-1 setback April 13 at the hands of Culver City.
Ueda, a native of Hawaii who has coached in the Los Angeles Volleyball Academy, initially landed at St. Monica to coach the girls volleyball team. And after leading the girls into the playoffs this past fall, she decided to stick around to coach the boys.
The arrangement has worked out well so far for the Mariners, who are co-captained by 6-foot-1 senior Drew Smock-Davis and 6-foot-2 junior Tommy Parra.
Smock-Davis, who was more familiar with the outside hitter position before this year, has excelled as a middle blocker.
“He’s been a huge part of making sure this team is focused on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Ueda said. “He said he would miss playing his position but that he was willing to move for the good of the team. And he’s become very good in his new position.”
Parra, an opposite hitter, has also played a major role in the team’s success.
“He’s a very solid player, he’s extremely consistent and knows a lot about the game,” Ueda said. “If you need someone to do get a sideout, to keep the team focused, he’s your go-to guy.”
The roster also includes senior middle blocker Ryan Engler, juniors Scotty Curan, Joris Eigirdas, Christian Gabbard, Ricardo Aguilar and John Lumb and sophomores Rocky Gerosa and Nick Von Schlegell.
Eight of the 10 current players were on last season’s varsity roster. What a difference a year makes.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.