Each time the Valencia boys volleyball team made an error on a serve, the Crescenta Valley bench had something to say about it.
“We love free points!” the team belted in unison.
The Vikings didn’t face any one major type of adversity, but rather many small types, such as a rowdy bench, on Tuesday at home. Nevertheless, Valencia was able to pull off a 3-2 win against the Falcons.
“We knew that we could beat them because we did it in Games 1 and 3 and we knew what we had to do, we just had to do it,” said outside hitter Jacob Knudsen. “We needed energy, we needed to start out and finish out with energy. I think we did that pretty well.”
In addition to crowd noise, Valencia (3-0 overall) was playing without one of its best players in Dorian Ellis and had changed the time of its game from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m. in order for the boys basketball team to play its first-round CIF State Championship game at 7 p.m.
“Everyone on our team has a role, so we always have depth in mind,” said coach Kevin Kornegay. “So if we have stuff happen, the next guy up, so I think we’re in that position. Obviously, when Dorian is back, that’s a big weapon we don’t have. But the other middles are stepping in and doing a great job.”
Valencia won the first and third game, but Crescenta Valley (5-3) fought back each time and was able to force a fifth game. After losing the fourth game on a service error, the Vikings had to quickly re-focus to prepare for the final frame.
“We just had to fake it ’til you make it,” said opposite hitter Tyler Clyde. “The end of that fourth set we were getting a little quiet, so we had to really bring that up in the beginning of the fifth set to take that lead.”
The two teams went point-for-point to open the fifth game until Crescenta Valley pulled ahead 5-3 when a Valencia kill went short and hit the net.
The Vikings were able to tie it, once again at 5-all, and the game resumed with back-and-forth play. With the score sitting at 6-8 in the Falcons’ favor, the Vikes went on a six-point scoring run that started with an ace from Wyatt Leiby and ended with a kill from Leiby to make it 12-9.
Crescenta Valley was unable to come back and Clyde ended the game at 15-11 with a kill.
“It was nice to win for the team,” Clyde said. “I wasn’t really thinking about me, I just wanted to finish it right there for all of us.”
Valencia started the match with similar dominance. They never trailed in the first game, looking sharp offensively and forcing Crescenta Valley to make errors. Game 1 ended with a 25-28 result in the Vikings’ favor.
The second game started with a kill from Ethan Lin and from there, the Vikes were able to hang on to narrow, single-digit leads until an ace from the Falcons’ Rett Cicciarelli and a kill from Garo Barsemian pulled Crescenta Valley ahead 12-10.
Crescenta Valley was able to string together a handful of short scoring runs to stay ahead as Valencia’s energy dwindled.
Another kill from Barsemian put the Falcons in position to win the game. A Vikings hit went wide immediately after, giving Crescenta Valley the game point.
“We had a four-man pass a couple of times, but we always had a blocker on him,” Clyde said of Barsemian, a UC Irvine commit with a powerful swing. “No matter where he was on the court, we always had someone. We never left him open.”
Valencia was able to bounce back in the third game, despite trailing 4-2 at the start. Three Crescenta Valley unforced errors gave the Vikings a 10-7 lead and although the Falcons were able to get within one point of tying the game, they were never able to fully catch up.
Back-to-back aces from Knudsen made it 21-17, then Daniel Ra was able to set Ethan Lin for the game-winning kill.
Starting the fourth game in the lead, Crescenta Valley was able to get ahead halfway through the game, going on a six-point run for a 19-16 advantage. A late kill from Knudsen reawakened the team briefly, but the Falcons were still able to force a fifth and final game, winning 25-20.
Although Valencia was forced to battle back to win the fifth game, Kornegay said he appreciates a few challenges at the start of the season.
“It’s good for us, especially during the season for playoff purposes or league matches that might go deep like that to get the experience and come out early, firing on all cylinders, energy right away. Because anybody can win a 15-point match,” he said. “So that was kind of the message and it was tight, we pulled away at the very end, which was crucial.”
The Vikings remain undefeated on the season with the win and next play at San Marcos on March 5. They begin league play on March 14 against Canyon at home at 5:30 p.m.