By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
For The Signal
The Vikings (2-1) took care of the Centurions (2-2) in a 3-0 sweep with scores of (25-17,25-22 and 25-20).
Valencia was in control for most of the game and remained cool and collected during all of Saugus’ battling to win each point.
Saugus had dozens of moments where it looked like they could have stolen each set but Valencia’s demeanor never changed. The mostly senior team answered each attempt and secured each game in the sweep.
The Vikings were led by junior opposite hitter Asa Holmes who slammed nine kills. Holmes’ powerful swing was too much for the Saugus passers who did make plenty of plays on the junior but not enough for the win. Senior Rafael Puno also came up big for the Vikings as he was everywhere registering second for the team in both kills (8) and digs (9).
“We noticed that their guys on the back row were pushing back a little bit,” Puno said. “I wanted to tip short to either get their setter out or pull him inside.”
After some back and forth early in the first set, the Vikings pulled away and won by eight points.
The second set was grueling, as both teams fought equally hard for every single point. The game started off by a booming kill from Puno. The Centurions bigs answered the next Vikings swing with a block and the back and forth ensued.
Each team went on multiple, consecutive scoring runs, registering at least 3 points before the other could answer. After an immense back and forth, eventually errors would cause a stumble for the Centurions and a Zane Keidel ace would win Valencia the second set.
“They had two good jump servers that gave us a little bit of a problem,” said Valencia head coach Josh Kornegay. “A few hitting errors here and there, and all of a sudden they were up two. But I love the way we didn’t panic, we didn’t freak out. We just kept chipping away.”
The Vikings rode the momentum into the third game and nearly took a double-digit lead but Saugus refused to go away easily. What originally looked like a blowout final set turned into a battle. Although Saugus could not close the gap enough to win, they kept Valencia on their toes to the last point and even scored twice facing match point.
“I got 10 seniors on the squad,” Kornegay said. “[They’re a] pretty battle-tested bunch. I don’t think they’re going to panic too much at any situation. I think that helped us today.”
The COVID-19 friendly volleyball match required all players, coaches, staff, etc., to wear a mask at all times. The teams additionally did not swap sides of the courts in between sets. The players were more than happy to be back on the court again.
“I think all of us are just glad to be out here playing again,” Puno said. “Obviously our season got cut short last year and we had no idea we were coming back. We’re just glad to be back.”
The Vikings will now prepare for their fourth consecutive away match to start this season. Valencia will travel to Golden Valley for a match Wednesday, April 28. Saugus will be on the road the same day for a matchup with Hart.