Championship Culture: John Mayer and co. lead SMC volleyball to glory
Santa Monica College Corsairs men's volleyball head coach John Mayer couldn't remember exactly when he knew that the 2015 edition of the blue and white could take the state championship. It was somewhere in the preseason non traditional tournaments when two of the returning sophomores Taylor Tattersall and Luis Palos showed their growth over the offseason.
"You could see Tattersall, who was good for us last year, looked more dominant and Luis Palos just looked more comfortable," Mayer said. "Having two returners like that was huge and bringing in two pieces like [freshman] Daniel Vaziri and [freshman] Harrison Hodgin is like wow, that's a lot of good players. You could see the potential for a really good team."
To say it was a really good team would be an understatement.
The Corsairs dropped two games the entire season and only one of those came in conference play.
SMC finished first in the state in hitting percentage and in service aces and had a 13 game winning streak. Of course, hoisting the school's first men's volleyball state trophy since 1981 is a nice bonus.
Ostensibly, the program's success is derived from the John Wooden-esque culture Mayer has built over his ten years at the helm of the program.
"We stress trying to have a gym full of learners," Mayer said. "It's not what you are when you arrive, its what you are when you leave."
It is the crucible of this training arena that forms a young athlete.
Though, a culture can only succeed if the players within it accept it and Mayer's boys bought in with their last penny.
The co-captain, sophomore transfer Frankie Manes, lead from the bench as a reserve. His voice was often the loudest on the Corsair half of the court and could always be found in the center of a huddle.
Tattersall lead from the court, he could be counted on to provide the game winning spike or a combo stuff block to turn the momentum of a match.
"We really stress each day as a chance to get better and the guys buy into that. That creates a great culture," Mayer said.
Despite the regular season for the record books, the focus of the returning sophomores was to get over the hump of last years state final loss.
"Last year's loss was like a pin in my back, the whole year, pushing me to get better every day," Luis Palos said in his exit interview.
Mayer's players first culture extends to even the smallest aspects of the team.
As they were honored for their state championship win at Tuesday evenings Board of Trustees meeting, Mayer yielded the floor to allow each member of his team to announce the school they would be attending next year.
After players dropped the names of Concordia University, Pepperdine University and New York University Law, Mayer dropped a bomb.
He's leaving SMC to take over the Loyola Marymount University sand volleyball program. Yet, in Mayer's way the announcement was but a blip in the festivities of the day.
He walks into the horizon, leaving behind a legacy of growth among student athletes and glory in the trophy case.