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Eye of the Tiger

VOLLEYBALL: Seeking redemption

Combined, the varsity boys volleyball team and its new coach, Marco Salcedo, have finished seven section championships in second place. The senior-heavy team and Salcedo hope their past defeats will drive them to finally clinch the section title this year.

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(GEORGE HUGHES/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(GEORGE HUGHES/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(GEORGE HUGHES/EYE OF THE TIGER)

JAMIE BATEMAN

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(FILE PHOTO/GEORGE HUGHES) The Tigers fall 3-2 to Granite Bay in last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section championship matchup. The loss marked the second consecutive section-championship defeat for the boys, who hope to finally earn one this year alongside their coach, Marco Salcedo, who has lost five section-championship games.

Marco Salcedo replaced Cindy Simon as the varsity boys volleyball team’s coach this season, marking the team’s third new coach in three years. Salcedo has years of experience and also knows how many of the boys feel regarding the section title; he has never won one as a coach, but has lost five.

He hopes that the boys’ desire to achieve the goal combined with his own will be enough to finally get one this year. In his opinion, the team already looks like it is in good shape and just needs little adjustments here and there.

“The guys are already playing in midseason form,” Salcedo said. “In practice, we really are just working on fine tuning every little detail.”

In an effort to make sure every aspect of the team’s performance is up to par, Salcedo has implemented a system with a heavy influence on discipline. He says that the drills he has the boys do at practices aren’t too difficult, but they must be done with complete focus or else the drill is restarted and the boys have to run lines.

“Basically, I run it like a business – this is my company and they work for me. They have to be responsible for every little tiny thing. Everything is disciplined. Everything is perfect.,” Salcedo said.

Salcedo also puts an emphasis on finishing games as quickly as possible. He said that, in past years, he coached teams that tended to let off the gas if they were winning by a certain margin. He is opposed to this as he found that this would sometimes let other teams sneak back and win games that his teams had in the bag.

This year, he won’t be letting the Tigers do any of that. His mission is to have his starters dominate early on in matches so that he can rotate players around, rest players appropriately and finish off opponents without giving them any chances.

“The goal that I’ve tried to stress to the starters is that their job is to get off the court and get the bench guys in,” Salcedo said. “I’ve coached teams with more talent than this one, but they oftentimes got lazy and would drag out games. These guys play hard all the time.”

Salcedo, having seen the talent that this team possesses, came out of retirement in order to finally capture a section title. Although he may have more chances in the future, he has been sure to not let the seniors forget that this is their last chance.

Senior outside hitter Jeffery Oh feels that the constant reminders from Salcedo have helped the boys remain focused and driven on achieving their ultimate goal.

“[Salcedo] stresses the fact that this is our last year playing,” Oh said. “It really motivates us and makes us push ourselves hard, whether it’s practice or match.”

The group has had an impressive run over the past two years, with two league championship banners to show for it, but has not yet managed to clinch a Sac-Joaquin Section title – and that’s the only thing this year’s team has in mind.

(GEORGE HUGHES/EYE OF THE TIGER) The Tigers gather together after completing their last drill at one of their practices. Because many of them have played together for so many years, their chemistry on the court is higher than ever this season. They plan to use it to their advantage on their quest for the section title.

The Tigers have made it to the section final two years in a row and have lost on both occasions, falling just short of earning an SJS banner twice. Last season the boys posted a 35-6 overall record but lost to the Granite Bay Grizzlies in a devastating 3-2 defeat in the section championship’s fifth set. The year before, they lost in a very similar fashion to the Whitney Wildcats, missing yet another chance at a section title.

With this in mind, senior captain and four-year varsity player Neil Reilly knows that this year is the last chance that he and his fellow seniors will have to hang a section banner.

“Sophomore year, we knew we had two more tries and last year we said ‘Oh there’s always next year,’” Reilly said. “We want to finish with a win in the section tournament, and this is our last chance.”

The extra motivation and new practice regiment is seemingly paying off, as the team has started off with a 12-1 overall record and a 5-0 league record. Notably, the Tigers have beaten the Jesuit Marauders twice and swept last year’s Capital Valley Conference co-champion, the Whitney Wildcats, 3-0 last week.

Oh feels that the importance of the win over Whitney will not only help them in the win column but will also help them going forward in CVC play.

“Obviously we want to win the CVC, and Whitney is the team we have to beat to do that,” Oh said. “Now when we play them the next time, we will have the confidence that we will be able to play better than them and beat them in three [sets].”

Last year, the Tigers were able to beat the Wildcats in their first meeting but fell to them in their second. To beat them again, Oh feels that the Tigers need to clean up some of the little mistakes that they made in the first match, specifying serving and hitting errors.

Oh thinks that the new practice mentality implemented by Salcedo will allow them to combat those mistakes as well as make sure that no other problems come up in the future.

“We are a lot more disciplined as a team and take practice a lot more seriously,” Oh said. “The new practice style has us in a position to be much better than we have been in the last two years.”

Another thing that may help the Tigers this year is their experience. The core boys on this year’s team have been playing together on varsity since they were sophomores and some have also played competitively outside of high school together on club teams. Reilly thinks that, because of this, the chemistry of this team is at an all-time high, and that it could be a huge weapon for the Tigers this year.

“Chemistry is very important in volleyball,” Reilly said. “All of us know how each other likes the ball set and things like that, and because of that it makes us a lot better”

Since the Whitney win, the Tiger went on to defeat the Ponderosa Bruins in three sets last Thursday, continuing their 18 consecutive set streak which dates back to their only loss against Clovis High School at the beginning of March. The next match for the Tigers will be today at home against the 4-2 (league play) Oakmont Vikings.

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