Golden Valley Grizzlies boys’ volleyball fell just short of an opening-round playoff win after a five-set loss to the hosting Troy Warriors.
Troy won the match, 25-20, 25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 22-20.
The Grizzlies were nearly able to steal the match after being in an 0-2 hole and fought hard in an intense fifth set.
Golden Valley head coach Sam Hand was proud of his team’s effort at the end of a monumental year for the program.
“Boy, do they love their long sets,” Hand said in a phone interview. “It was tense and exciting. I’m glad if we had to lose a game in the playoffs, that it was a game where we put everything in that we could’ve. The team had done everything at that point that I had asked them to. And it just came down to if they could they rise to the challenge of the team opposing them and they kept doing that.”
Outside hitters JC Navarro and Ryan Ko led the Grizzly offense, combining for nearly 50 kills in their varsity finales.
Troy wasn’t winning anything easy but still took control of the match with a quick 2-0 lead.
Hand saw there was no simple way to defeat the Warriors and his team needed to work even harder for the third set.
“After the first two sets, we were willing to accept the fact that to compete with that team there was no easy exploit,” Hand said. “We had to add hard work. We dedicated to block their outside hitters but we had to make the most of the touches we were getting off these blocks.”
Even though his team dropped the second set, the team started seeing momentum turn in its favor after its hitters away from the outside spots found their rhythm.
“At the end of second, we finally were able to establish both middles,” Hand said. “They’re what separates us from the rest of the pack. We have threatening middles. Establishing them all really gets our wheels going. We had a few kills right at the 10-foot long that got our guys going.”
Golden Valley was able to force a fifth set, but 15 points would not be enough to decide a winner. The Grizzlies, a team with only three seniors, went all the way, 22-20, with Troy to end the match.
It was a heartbreaking defeat but the team had accomplished its goal of finishing top-three in the Foothill League and getting its feet wet in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies swept Providence in a wildcard game just two days before heading down to Fullerton to face Troy.
Now, after a 21-win season, by far the program’s best season, the expectations will rise at Golden Valley.
“At times I forget the goal is to bring new success to Golden Valley,” Hand said. “I’m kind of glad because it’s been so fun. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to tell GV players, you’re not here to compete for a fourth through sixth spot in league. You’re here to compete for the top seed, and nothing changes for next year. The bar is set high and we’ll shoot higher and that’s what this year set us up to do.”
The Grizzlies will retain the bulk of their varsity roster and return the most players behind only Castaic. The team will return standout middles Nicholas Waldron, Akshay Karumuri and Peter Hall while the athletic setter Oliver Boton will return for his senior season in 2024.
The future is uncertain as the team will have some holes to fill but Hand may finally have the Golden Valley boys’ volleyball program headed straight up.
“As much as I wanted this to work out now, I’m really excited for the future of this varsity team,” Hand said.