Ahead of Valencia boys volleyball’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinal game against Mission Viejo, one message echoed throughout the Vikings’ pregame talk.
“We said keep the energy up, keep going and just go for every ball,” said Cameron Graves. “Don’t let it drop.”
Graves was the embodiment of that sentiment, playing through a fractured wrist to power through Game 3 and help the Vikes sweep the Diablos on Monday at Valencia.
“He’s great because he gets you the side out and gets you the points, so it’s a benefit to have somebody like that,” said coach Kevin Kornegay. “A go-to guy, I guess you would call him.”
Valencia (25-11) as a whole gained momentum early with a 25-20 win in Game 1. In the second frame, the Vikes worked their way to a 21-14 lead, then went on a four-point run to make it 24-15.
A Graves kill set the Vikings up for match point, which they achieved in the following rally when a Mission Viejo (15-12) kill went wide.
Keeping focused was a point of emphasis in the break between the second and third games. Valencia’s previous match against Vista Murrieta had stretched to five games due to some premature relaxation.
“We made sure after Game 2 that we reminded them what happened last week and keep the intensity up,” Kornegay said. “Teams are going to fight in volleyball. They’re not going to just let you have it.”
Valencia reached a four-point lead before Graves, who injured his wrist in the first round of playoffs, found his groove with a solo block to make it 11-6 in the home team’s favor.
An authoritative kill immediately followed by an ace – both from Graves – gave the Vikings some mid-game momentum.
He had backup from middles Dorian Ellis and Connor Ruffner, who finished the match with seven kills apiece.
“It gets pretty easy because we all have each other’s backs,” Graves, who had a team-high 14 kills, said. “So I love playing with them.”
David Chun’s kill shut down the final game at 25-20.
Valencia will travel to Orange Lutheran on Wednesday in the semifinals. It’s a quick turnaround due to the rescheduling of the Mission Viejo match from Saturday to Monday. It’ll be the Vikings’ first trip to the semis since 2015.
“(We’re) super excited,” Graves said. “The adrenaline rush is overwhelming and I’m glad to have this team.”