With a 2-1 Mark, Starting Line-Up Still Up in the Air
Historically the most successful of Santa Monica College's athletic programs with 11 Conference championships plus one State and five National Champion trophies lining its case, the Corsairs have high expectations for the Men's 2005 Volleyball season.
Few tournaments earlier, the team started regular season play on Wednesday, Feb. 16 with a strong showing by winning all three games 25-15, 25-23, 25-17 against the Orange Coast Pirates.
"We played well and didn't make any mistakes," said Head Coach Mark Lee.
Giving great performances were outside hitter Dragan Ivanivic with 12 kills, 11 digs, two service aces, multi-position player Derek Otte had 11 kills, four blocks, 20 assists, and opposite hitter and team Captain Brian Schirripa with nine kills. Additionally, middle blocker Victor Guillen was very effective with 10 blocks.
Next up on Feb. 23 were the Palomar Comets who Orange Coast had recently beaten in three games.
Knowing that, the Corsairs entered the contest thinking they could coast to a win. But Lee's squad never got on track as they underestimated their opponent to lose the match 25-22, 25-18, 25-19, 25-18. "We made a lot of mistakes," said Lee. "We just gave them points."
Team highlights included Ivanivic's 11 kills, Otte's 11 kills, Schirripa's seven kills and five blocks, and outside/opposite hitter Aiden Babakhanian's five kills, who sat out the previous game due to injury.
The game was a wake-up call for a team with State Championship aspirations.
A big difference from the previous game was the number of errors committed by Ivanivic and Otte. In the first match they had only four, but against the Comets they were responsible for twelve errors.
Though Lee is mild mannered and very low key during games, he is a no-nonsense guy who will bench a player for giving less than everything.
Game three on Feb. 25 saw that adjustment as he benched two players and put together a new rotation against the San Diego Mesa Olympians.
"No one's really locked into position. I have ten guys competing for six starting spots," said the coach.
The team started slowly, making too many errors and losing the initial game 28-26. But in the next game they re-gathered their focus and won going away 25-21, 25-21, 27-25.
"We were playing with a new rotation," said Otte. "In the second game we found our rhythm with the setter for the rest of the match."
Against the Olympians, the team had many standouts. Setter Kupono Nu'uhiwa was pivotal making 40 assists, and eight digs. Otte made 16 kills, three service aces and nine digs, Ivanivic made 11 kills and three blocks, Schirripa made 13 kills and three blocks, and outside/opposite hitter David Diaz made nine kills and six digs.
Colin Kelly, who plays both setter and opposite hitter positions delivered the goods with excellent serving and defense with five digs. "I think his passing was a major reason we won last night," added Lee.
Even though Guillen had been recently down with illness, he too brought his game. "Victor gave us an emotional lift" said Lee.
Despite the win, Lee has made no final lineup decisions. In regards to the various injuries to knees, ankles and toes Lee said, "We need to toughen up mentally and physically."
"My biggest problem is that I have too many good players," said Lee. "It's a great situation for a coach, but good players will be on the bench."
With a winning record of 2-1, the team thinks they can go all the way to the State Championship.
"We have strong hitting and the best serving in the state when we are on," said Otte.
The Corsair's next match is tonight at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, versus the Irvine Valley Lasers at SMC.