Boys’ volleyball: Falcons win CCS title over Aptos

May 20, 2015 — by Stefanie Ting

The No. 11-seeded Falcons proved seedings don't mean much as they coasted to the championship.

The boys’ volleyball team was crowned the 2015 CCS Champions in Division II for the first time in the school’s  history on May 19 at Independence High School with a 3-0 victory (25-21, 25-18, 31-29) over the Aptos Mariners. The win propelled the Falcons in the NorCal Tournament.
“I'm beyond excited to have accomplished a CCS victory my senior year. Best graduation present ever!” senior outside hitter Michael Cole said. “I'm just so happy for our team and what we did this season.”
Facing the No. 1 seeded Aptos, the boys pulled off an upset. Having easily defeated Mt. Madonna High School during the season, who had earlier beaten Aptos 3-1, the Falcons felt confident throughout the game. The Falcons came into the tournament as the No. 11 seed.
“During the first set, Aptos was easier than we thought they'd be, but they had momentum in the second set,” junior setter Chester Leung said. “They proved to be a resilient team, but we came back in the last two sets and beat them.”
Despite Aptos’ persistence, the boys consistently executed successful plays. Sophomore outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller contributed more than 25 kills from the assists of Leung, who totaled 52 throughout the game, while senior libero Stephen Peng made several saves with diving plays. To finish the game, junior outside hitter Spencer Yen sealed the last points of the third set with two kills.
“I think our success at CCS just came down to confidence in our team,” Peng said. “As soon as we won our first game against Valley Christian, we knew that we were one of the best teams in our division, so we kept pushing to see how far we could go.” 
The team’s win secured its spot at the 2015 CIF NorCal Regional Boys Volleyball Championships on May 26. The playoffs will take place in Saratoga’s own gym at 7 p.m. To qualify, a team must finish top two in either of the two divisions of CCS, Division I or Division II. These four teams will then compete against 20 other top teams from the North Coast, Central Coast, Sac-Joaquin and San Francisco Sections.  
Earlier, the Falcons played their semifinal game against St. Ignatius High School on May 16, winning 3-0. 
Although they emerged victorious, the boys played poorly during their first set, missing a total of eight serves. As they improved their serving, they easily swept their opponent.
“We were confident going into the game since we have been playing so well, but we knew it was going to be tough,” Cole said. “We were excited to win the semifinals and even more excited to be the first Saratoga boys volleyball team to ever make it to the CCS Finals.”
Two days earlier, the boys faced the No. 3 seed Mt. Madonna. Despite the difficult drive past the Santa Cruz mountains and having lost to the team earlier in the season, the Falcons ended up winning 3-0.
“We thought it was going to be a tough game since they had already beaten us twice this season and were ranked third,” Leung said. “But we came out with tons of energy, and they seemed pretty rusty.”
On May 12, the Falcons beat No. 6 seed Valley Christian 3-1, which propelled them into the next round.
  “Overall the game was really close. Valley Christian’s a great team and [was] really persistent,” Leung said. “But our passing was terrific, and we were really scrappy and dove for every ball.”
In addition to their strong defense, Leung attributed the team’s success to teammates Schneidmiller and Yen.
“[Schneidmiller] overcame his ab injury to get 37 kills [against Valley Christian], and really helped us beat them; the threat of him on the outside made all the other hitters have an easier time hitting,” Leung said. “And [Yen] ended the game with a sick block.” 
Even so, the boys struggled early in the game, letting down their game at the end of the first set.
“We went into the game really excited and ready to win, but after losing the first set we were pretty worried,” junior opposite hitter Aakash Thumaty said. “But we didn't let that phase get to us and came back in strong to win the next three in a row.”
Going into CCS, the boys felt lucky just to be there. Last year, the team lost its bid to CCS, even though the Falcons won their league tournament. However, they finished their season with the same record as Wilcox High School, thus making them “co-league” champions. 
In order to determine who would proceed, the rules of CCS said that the teams could either play another game or choose a coin toss. Wilcox’s coach demanded a coin toss, and the Falcons lost. 
Now, with their qualification for NorCal and their winning of CCS, the boys have buried memories of last year’s unfortunate end.
“We're very excited to be playing at the next level. We are expecting the teams to be very tough, but we believe in our team and have hope that we can go far,” Cole said.