By Ryan Craighead
LBCC’s men’s volleyball season ended in a semifinal match of the state championship against Grossmont, 3-1, on April 18 in the Hall of Champions gym.
The Vikings only won one game but were close for the majority of the match with scores of 25-19, 25-23, 25-20, 25-22. LBCC kept the game close but trailed often, losing the first point in all four games and only leading by two or more points twice during the match.
Grossmont and LBCC exchanged points, service errors and diving plays from the second game on. The match was tied 37 different times, from 10-10 in the second game until 21-21 in the fourth.
Viking coach Jonathan Charette said, “Errors were the tale of the tape. The atmosphere got to the guys.”
In the third game alone, the Vikings gave Grossmont six points by serving the ball into the net six times and only mustered one block. For the match, the Vikings had a hitting percentage of 23 percent for the match, their second lowest on the year.
“We’re not gonna beat anybody that way,” Charette said.
The fourth set had the more spectacular plays of the match. Captain Greg Utupo dove after a ball on the Grossmont side of the net to save a point, but was unsuccessful. The very next point, the right-handed Utupo jumped on the left side of the net to spike the ball with his left hand to win the point, tying the game at 11-11.
Each point scored featured a huge crowd outburst and both teams slapping hands and bumping chests. Grossmont outside hitter Davis Anderson ran around the referee’s chair, dove on the LBCC side of the net to hit the ball back to a teammate to save the point and put Grossmont ahead, 19-18. The Vikings could only tie the game after that point and eventually lost the game and match, 25-22.
Grossmont lost in the championship game to Golden West, 3-0, with games of 31-29, 26-24 and 25-17.
Utupo was one of six players to be on the All Tournament Team.
LBCC ended the season with a 15-4 overall record, 8-2 in-conference and the Western State Conference No. 2 playoff seed.
The Vikings had six players earn all-conference honors including a co-MVP, sophomore Jo’Lon Clark. Utupo, sophomore Jon Schaefer and freshman Austin Arcala earned first-team honors. Sophomore Jake Burkhardt and freshman Skyler McCoy earned the second-team awards.
LBCC will graduate six sophomores and return nine freshman. Six of those freshman saw playoff-game action, including Arcala and McCoy.