Volleyball continues winning ways

On the heels of the previous week's significant confidence-boosting victory on March 18, over the conference-leading Santa Barbara College Vaqueros, the Santa Monica College Corsairs continued to improve and convincingly defeated the visiting El Camino College Warriors on March 23, by a score of 25-20, 17-25, 25-17, 25-17.

Spectators saw the Corsair squad start game one in an unusual rotation with multi-position player Derek Otte as setter and normal setter Kupono "Pono" Nu'uhiwa coming in as "libero."

A "libero" is a player not allowed to block or hit, only pass, dig and serve. Additionally, he can be substituted in and out at will, for anyone, anytime.

The rest of the team is allowed a maximum of 12 substitutions in the match.

Contributing to the reasons SMC Head Coach Mark Lee changed his starting rotation in the first two games was the fact that Pono had been late to a practice during the week, a violation of team rules that keeps a player from starting the next match. Lee is known to have high expectations for his players and does not hesitate to enforce his rules to insure discipline.

SMC easily prevailed in the first game as Otte and his teammates often set to outside hitter Dragan Ivanovic for the kill. The Warriors may have been somewhat thrown off in that game according to Otte who said, "They didn't know what to expect when they saw me setting. In the second game they figured it out."

And game two was a different story as El Camino was regularly able to isolate on Ivanovic as the most likely hitter, winning in a lopsided fashion.

"We didn't play them to win," said Lee. "We expected them to give it to us (in game two)."

Having seen enough of his game-starting rotation and the adjustment made by the visitors, Lee returned to his regular lineup for the last two games and easily dominated the rest of the match.

Statistically, the team shared the wealth with many players contributing. Ivanovic had 12 kills and five digs; Otte had 10 kills, four digs, three service aces, and 22 assists; Pono had three digs and 18 assists; middle blocker Victor Guillen had nine kills and four blocks; middle blocker Lawrence Craig had five kills and three blocks; opposite/outside hitter David Diaz had eight kills and four digs.

Returning to play after a couple of minor injuries had kept him sidelined during recent matches, outside hitter Aaron Schneider had a solid performance, producing seven digs and five blocks.

Missing from competition were team captain and middle blocker/opposite hitter Brian Schirripa who is still recovering from a broken bone in his left ankle and is expected to return in two weeks at the earliest; setter Collin Kiely who broke his nose in practice during the week.

"We really sailed through this one," said Assistant Coach Michael O'Hara. "Our team is coming together. Coach Lee has everyone thinking defense, calling for the ball and going for it."

A clearly satisfied Otte was pleased to finish the last two games in his normal position, spiking the ball with regularity into a hapless opponent.

"Its more fun to power and knock people over," said Otte. "I'm more of a hitter."

One new attraction for the home team was the first appearance of a six SMC cheerleaders who rallied the players and excited many others in attendance.

"The cheerleaders were fabulous," said O'Hara. "They gave us a lot of spark."

With only one game played in each of the last two weeks, the Corsairs have used the extra practice time to work on a lot of the little things that create more on-court cohesion.