Chelsea Brandwein & Nicholas Zarchen
Ethan Kahan pulled back his uniform to slyly signal a four-ball play on the last point of the boys’ volleyball Division 4 CIF final game. David Cline passed, Ethan Kahan set, and Charles Levy went in for the kill. Samo volleyball’s redemptive drive pushed them to get their first CIF title since 2006.
This final play ended the May 21 game against San Gabriel at Cypress College. The boys played in an intense well-matched battle to gain their victory, winning 22-25, 28-26, 25-21, 25-23 in one of the teams hardest fought matches.
“It kind of feels like destiny. When we won I felt like some transient being. It was unreal,” senior captain Levy said.
Coming off of a surprising and disappointing loss in the semifinals to Oak Park last year that resulted in moving down a division, the boys were hungry to show off their promising talent. From their deeply impactful loss of captain Eric Barber to numerous other injuries and obstacles, their team practiced tirelessly, motivated by their sheer determination.
On their road to CIF triumph, the Vikings took down each of their opponents in dominating fashion. In their first round match they swept Anaheim High School with powerhouse hits. For their first away match in the second round they played the Montebello Oilers and once again ripped through the competition. Giving them their first taste of adversity they played Bishop Montgomery in the Quarterfinals and overcame a tough crowd with consistent serving and drilling the ball. Coming closer to the prize, Samo took the momentum in the Semifinals and ran with it as they pounded through Windward.
The first set of the CIF Championship game began when Levy served the first ball and the fight of skill began. Samo was lagging and San Gabriel came out strong, causing Samo to lose the first game 22-25.
“The game started off a little bit shaky. Half way through the second game I thought to myself, ‘we are not going to win this match,’” junior Libero, Cody O’Connell said.
Fans began to quiet as the score of the second game widened 4-12. Pressure mounted as the loss of the second match became a real possibility. As the score grew closer in the second a welcome support system arrived as more Samo fans adorned in white filed in to the bleachers.
“I think that we coped with the pressure very well and I think that we got a huge lift from our fans. If we have the same number of fans at every game, we are unstoppable,” junior setter, Ethan Kahan said.
The boys were back in the game as David Cline hit back-to-back kills. They started passing on the mark and Kahan was connecting with all his hitters; everyone stepped up in the moment. They won the second match 28-26; coming back from a more than 8-point deficit.
“After [the second game], the opponents were shocked. The third and forth game [San Gabriel] could not overcome the frustration,” O’Connell said.
The next two sets finished 25-21, 25-23. The boys were powered by an amalgamation of crowd encouragement and team will.
“It has been an incredible journey with this team. The seniors stepped it up to end their high school careers with a memory they will never forget,” coach Liane Sato said.