Valencia volleyball buries Villa Park in playoff opener  

Valencia outside hitter Jarek Pascua (1) goes for the kill against Villa Park middle blocker David Castillo (18) and opposite hitter Gavin Choi (15) during the second set of Thursday's playoff match on April 25. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

The Foothill League champs came out swinging, and hungry for more, in Thursday’s Division 4 playoff opener. 

The Valencia Vikings dominated in all facets and swept the visiting Villa Park Spartans, 25-11, 25-14, 25-15, to win the program’s first playoff match in five seasons. 

Seniors Dane Ricks and Jarek Pascua led Valencia (20-9) with eight kills, while the former added three aces with a match-high 12 points.  

The seniors were hungry this season. Valencia’s program never dipped below above-average but was without a playoff win and league title for years. 

Valencia opposite hitter Dane Ricks (4) hits the ball over the net against Villa Park during the third set of Thursday’s playoff match on April 25. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“The seniors, we’ve worked really hard all four years,” Ricks said. “We’ve been striving every day to get that league title. It’s been really hard the last few years but we found a gap this year and we just took control. Now we’re here. We all deserve it, we’ve earned it. And I’m very excited for all the seniors.” 

The Vikings exploded early and rode a 10-0 run with Ricks serving.  

Ricks’ twin brother Jet Ricks also exploded in the first set, adding six kills in the set. Valencia fed Jet, an outside hitter, early, as the senior’s swing quickly tallied up five kills in the Vikings’ 12-2 lead. 

Valencia outside hitter Jet Ricks (99) goes up to set the ball against Villa Park during the second set of Thursday’s playoff match on April 25. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“We’re capable of so much more, even more than we showed today,” Dane said. “I’m excited to show what we can do in the future.” 

Valencia junior Holden Aspiras also added two of his three aces in the opening set. 

Villa Park (7-17) had no answers until the second set, where adjustments on the net were clearly made. The Spartans were sharper and stuffed nearly all of Valencia’s first dozen attacks. 

The Vikings’ kill totals dropped a little in the second set but the team still found ways to power ahead. Valencia’s block also turned up the heat as the team added four blocks in the second set. Villa Park utilized a ton of deep tips but finally started taking swings in the second, to which Valencia obliged with hands on the net. 

“I thought our offense was hot and cold,” said Valencia coach Brendan Riley. “We made more attacking errors than I would’ve liked but we haven’t played in a week. But yeah, they’re clicking for sure.” 

The Spartans showed no signs of defeat and kept the pressure up high in the final set. Villa outside hitter Ben Coty finally got going and added four of his seven kills in the third. David Castillo and Sabeel Khan also added a pair of kills in the third. 

Valencia, however, kept its foot on the gas. Pascua shook off his slow start and put down some tough kills in the second and third games while Landon Cuny and Dylan McFatridge also added two kills in the third game. 

Riley emptied his bench to get his non-starters some playoff experience, but even with new players in all-around, Valencia kept firing on all cylinders. The reserves passed well, had some tough serves and even had some perfectly run quick sets on the net with new setters and middles. 

Valencia opposite hitter Leo Sangthongkum (21) and middle blocker Dylan McFatridge (53) go up for a block against Villa Park opposite hitter Ben Coty (2) during the second set of Thursday’s playoff match on April 25. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Valencia junior Kofi Paras officially ended the Spartans’ season with a pipe kill that sent the team and crowd into a frenzy. 

“Kofi Paris, he’s been begging to play forever and he finally got to kill,” Riley said. “It was a back-row kill, but he got a big one.”  

The Vikings have now won seven straight matches and will get their first playoff road test on Saturday as they take on the Laguna Blanca Owls (23-3) of Santa Barbara. 

The Owls are winners of nine straight matches and are Tri Valley League champions. 

“I’m super excited. It’s always fun traveling,” Dane said. “We’re gonna give it our best. We’re not gonna go out easily, that’s for sure. It doesn’t matter if we’re down two sets or by 10 points, it doesn’t matter. We’re gonna keep pushing, and we’re gonna win CIF if we can.”  

Laguna Blanca hosts Valencia on Saturday at 6 p.m. 

Valencia celebrates winning against Villa Park during the third set of Thursday’s playoff match on April 25. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

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