After 4-1 Start, Men's Volleyball Falls to 4-4 Following A Disappointing Week

Entering the fourth week of regular season play and with a 4-1 record, the Corsair's found themselves on the road against three wily opponents who delivered a reality check to the team as they lost all three encounters.

Monday night's match against the Moorpark College Raiders saw the team perform well despite a final tally of 23-25, 25-17, 22-25, 23-25.

"We made one or two mistakes each game which was the difference in the match," said Head Coach Mark Lee. "We played hard, but missed some easy opportunities when Moorpark hit the ball."

The play of Santa Monica College included: outside hitter Dragan Ivanovic with 15 kills, five digs, and two serving aces; multi-position player Derek Otte with 18 kills, seven blocks, and two serving aces; team captain and middle blocker/opposite hitter Brian Schirripa with seven kills, five digs, and four blocks. Outside/opposite hitter David Diaz continued his improving play with a solid performance of six kills, five digs, and six blocks.

"We missed a few too many serves," noted Lee when pressed further. "Moorpark just played great defense."

Additional strong performances came from middle blocker Victor Guillen with six kills and 14 blocks, setter Colin Kiely who served well and scored the most points, plus setter Kupono "Pono" Nu'uhiwa for another consistent night of 46 assists.

Next up saw the Corsairs traveling south to El Cajon on Wednesday to compete in their last match of inter-conference play against the Grossmont College Griffins.

In another closely fought contest that once again saw the visitors make only a few, but nonetheless pivotal mistakes, SMC lost 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-25, 14-16.

During the first game which may have decided things much earlier and ultimately delivered the match to SMC, the Corsairs were up 23-18, but seemed to lose their focus as the Griffins surged back and won 25-23.

"We had a little bit of a mental breakdown," said Lee. "We played well, but with the same small mistakes as last match."

The Corsairs produced similar stats as their previous match, with the addition of outside/opposite hitter Aden Babakhanian coming off the bench to deliver 12 digs and overall excellent play. Dragan had 15 kills and four digs and Otte had 17 kills. Schirripa delivered 11 kills and six blocks while Guillen produced nine kills. The ever-reliable Pono had 48 assists.

Trying to regroup from these unexpected two losses, the Corsairs had more bad news during Thursday's practice as Schirripa sprained an ankle which would eliminate him from play the following night against the Long Beach City College Vikings. And in that match they were blown out in three by a score of 21-25, 13-25, 16-25.

"We didn't play well at all," said Lee. "I think the day before, some guys missed practice and that hurt us some. And then Long Beach just took it to us."

With no one even hitting in double digits, the Corsairs seemed unable to find their rhythm against the Vikings as Lee tried a number of rotations in the absence of the calming influence of starter team leader Schirripa.

"Brian is the most competitive and consistent player we have," said Lee. "And with him out, no one stepped up. We showed a lack of competitiveness."

Though they are the reigning state champs, Long Beach came into the match with a mostly-new lineup.

"We might have underestimated them," said Lee.

With a week off until their next competition in another away match on Friday, March 18, against conference rival Santa Barbara, the recently struggling Corsairs with a record of 4-4 have a few days to rediscover the team chemistry that brought them success early on.

"We've lost a little confidence," said Lee. "We need to keep working hard and learn from this. Our season is not over. We can still make the playoffs and win the state championship."