In a fifth-game standoff, Valencia volleyball stood in a circle, hand in hand, during a timeout. They were trailing by five points to Esperanza of Anaheim.
“I just told them that we needed to settle down and play our game and that we had really relied on our seniors to get us there and then we needed our seniors to get us through that,” said coach Ray Sanchez.
“If we were going to be successful, we had to play aggressive.”
But neither the play of a skilled senior class not the talent of up-and-coming underclassmen could take down a powerful Aztecs team, as the Vikings fell 3-2 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Vikes got out to a rocky start as Esperanza achieved an early lead in the first game. The Aztecs (30-6, 7-1 in Crestview League) were later held to 24 points as Valencia tallied five of their own, but the visiting team prevailed 25-17.
Valencia (24-11, 7-1 in Foothill League) dug itself out of a shallow hole to take a 5-6 lead in the next frame and kept the momentum going with sporadic kills from outside hitters Lo Russ and Lauryn Shockley. The Vikings took Game 2 when an Esperanza shot went long, then won Game 3 on a Shockley kill.
In Game 4, Aztec opposite Deidra Schreiver came alive to spearhead an attack that the Vikes just couldn’t thwart, as Esperanza earned a 25-21 win.
“Our main goal was to slow them down as best as we could and just do what we could to stop them on our side,” said senior Lo Russ, who led the team in kills with 15 and added 16 digs.
With one final chance at securing a win, Valencia recovered from some early setbacks to tie the Game 5 at 3-3. The outcome seemed to be in the Vikings’ control until Esperanza rattled off five points en route to a 15-8 win.
“I think we worked together as a team tonight and we fought hard to the last points,” said Shockley, who finished the night with 12 kills and 16 digs.
“I’m excited for my journey after here and I wouldn’t have wanted to end the season any other way. It’s disappointing to end on a loss, but I think we made a huge improvement from the beginning and we had a great season.”