The No. 3 Long Beach City College men's volleyball team took to their home hardwood with a purpose Friday evening – to haul in a second-consecutive Western State Southern Division Championship in the booming confides of the Hall of Champions Gymnasium. After dropping the opening set by a mere two points, the Vikings rebounded strongly to take the following three sets and the conference title with a victory over the No. 4 El Camino College Warriors.
After dropping a tough first set, the Vikings rebounded smoothly in the second set. Freshman outside Noah Taitano (Carson, CA) got the wheels churning with a kill, followed by a hammer from sophomore outside Travis O'Gorman (East Northport, NY). Freshman middle Eli Garcia (Bellflower, CA) and sophomore setter Gary Trejo (Long Beach, CA) linked up on a slide to recorded another kill shortly after. Sophomore libero David Escobedo (Los Angeles, CA) was phenomenal all night and put his defensive skills on display early with two incredible digs in a row leading to a kill off a strong swing from sophomore outside Cyrus Fa'alogo (Salt Lake City, UT).
However, the lead began to dwindle in a back-and-forth affair, but the Vikings remained poised and forced multiple errors on the El Camino side of the hardwood. No. Taitano ended the Vikings draught with a solo stuff leading to a 25-23 set victory to bring the match to a 1-1 tie.
No. Taitano continued to swing well in the third set by putting the Vikings up 3-1 with a kill. Sophomore middle Elai Mama (Moreno Valley, CA) chipped in with a unique back assist en route to another Fa'alogo kill. Sophomore setter Jayce Ashment (Gilbert, AZ) extended the Vikings' lead with a dump kill, backed by another hammer from O'Gorman. Freshman outside Daniel Deng (Long Beach, CA) recorded an ace shortly after, backed by a Fa'alogo kill that was set up by an impressive dig from sophomore libero Neil Taitano (Carson, CA), thus leading to a Warriors timeout with the Vikings holding a 12-11 advantage,
Escobedo continued to dominate on the back line out of the timeout with another nice dig leading to a deep-ball kill from No. Taitano. After El Camino tied the game up at 23-all, Fa'alogo and No. Taitano recorded two-consecutive kills down the stretch en route to a 26-24 set victory.
The fourth set was all Long Beach early as another service aces off the hand of Deng put them up 4-0. Ashment and Fa'alogo continued to keep the offensive train chugging by linking up for another kill, followed by a hammer in the middle from Mama to maintain a four point lead.
However, the Warriors battled back to tie the contest at 11-all to make it a trying set for Long Beach.
Nevertheless, the Vikings returned to early-set form and regained their rhythm with a huge momentum-grabbing stuff from Mama in the middle. Ashment followed suit with an impressive solo block backed by an even better defense from Escobedo to deflate the Warriors. Fa'alogo and Garcia ended the game with a dual block to end the match and haul in a conference title.
"The guys did a great job of staying in [the game]," explained Head Coach Jonathon Charrette, who has lead the Vikings to two-consecutive conference crowns.
Long Beach is happy about hauling in another conference title, but they are far from satisfied.
"This was one of our goals – to be conference champs, but we know that this goals leads to our next step which is playoffs."
The Vikings will host the quarter finals on Friday, April 21st at 7 p.m. with the opponent to be determined. Stay tuned to www.lbccvikings.com for further information.