Men's volleyball wins WSC Title

Spring break may have provided needed respite and other pleasures to vacationing Santa Monica College students, but the men's volleyball program was no such beneficiary as the returning squad was thumped in a lop-sided loss on Monday, April 18, to the visiting Moorpark College Raiders by a score of 25-22, 17-25, 22-25, 21-25.

Facing the possible end of their season by Friday, the SMC Corsairs turned it around dramatically and prevailed in the next two must-win matches at the end of conference play. In doing so, they secured a place in the post-season playoffs and kept alive their quest for state championship honors.

After a week of ineffective practices due largely to a depleted squad, the Corsairs could never find their rhythm against a confident Raider squad who ended SMC's five-game winning streak.

Showing only intermittent flashes of the cohesion and brilliance the team has demonstrated of late, the Corsairs were even given a questionable yellow card penalty in the fourth game, resulting in an additional point against them.

"We just came out and played kind of flat," said Head Coach Mark Lee. "During Spring Break we didn't practice very well, with a few guys out and a few others with minor injuries. We came back Monday not 100 percent."

The players' stats included all-around player Derek Otte with 17 kills, four blocks and three digs; outside hitter Dragan Ivanovic with 10 kills, six blocks, and three service aces; middle blocker Victor Guillen with seven kills and five blocks; outside/opposite hitter Aden Babakhanian with seven kills and five digs; and setter Kupono Nu'uhiwa with five digs, two service aces and 30 assists.

Two nights later on April 20 in an away game against the Los Angeles Pierce Brahmas, the Corsairs were blown out of the first game as they continued their uninspired play.

Returning to the court after a few weeks out because of a broken left ankle, Brian Schirripa came in during the second game as an outside hitter instead of his usual middle blocker position and played well.

With Schirripa added to the mix, the team reversed their fortunes and won the next three games and the match, but not before a pivotal third game when the squad rallied from a deficit of 22-24 to win.

In six-man volleyball, points are scored by a "rally scoring" system until either team reaches 24 points. During "rally scoring," a point is scored by the prevailing team each time the ball is served.

But when either team reaches 24 points, scoring is changed to "side-out scoring" and only the serving team can win a point. Thus 22-24 is perceived as a much deeper hole from which to climb to win, especially since a team must win by two points.

Once again, SMC dialed-in the requisite focus and grittiness needed at such moments and elevated their play, stunning the Brahmas as SMC scrambled back to win 26-24.

A clearly shocked L.A. Pierce was no competition in the fourth game as the surging Corsairs crushed their opponents by a devastating 25-11.

"We pulled it together (in the third game) and won," said Lee. "After that, we hammered them. They just gave up."

The home game on Friday, April 22, against the Long Beach College Vikings was crucial for a number of reasons. Whoever won would advance to the playoffs (beginning on Tuesday, May 3) while the loser's season would be over.

With playoff hopes on the line for both teams, SMC played what Lee considered his squad's best performance of the season in a convincing 4-1 win by a score of 25-14, 25-17, 20-25, 25-16.