It’s been an up and down year for the Long Beach City College men’s volleyball team, but the season is ending on the highest of high notes: the Vikings won a dominant state championship match against Irvine Valley College on Saturday night to claim the CCCAA title, 25-22, 25-12, 25-12.
“If you followed us at all this year you know that we had some high points and some low points,” said Vikings coach Jonathan Charette. “We had a different lineup every night, every set sometimes. We had a lot of growing.”
The win gives LBCC its 10th men’s volleyball state championship, most of any team in the state (no one else has more than eight), and it gives the LBCC athletic program as a whole its 93rd state championship, in the school’s 93rd year of existence–that’s also more titles than any other school in California.
“It just feels amazing,” said setter Joseph Rocha. “All the hard work paid off. We had a lot of ups and downs this year, a lot of guys changing positions, but we worked hard and we pushed each other every match.”
LBCC (19-3) came into the state playoffs seeded third but playing better than anyone else in the state. They swept No. 2 El Camino on Thursday and then took down the Lasers in just 70 minutes in the state final.
Rocha put together a pair of excellent matches, guiding the Vikings to a .404 attack in the semifinal and a .421 in the state championship. After a tight first set, the Vikings hit .611 and .533 in the second and third sets on Saturday.
Kyle Anema was the team’s top hitter both nights, with 17 kills on .394 hitting Thursday and 13 kills on .480 hitting Saturday, leading a strong and aggressive serving attack that no team was prepared to handle.
“I thought we served very well,” said Charette. “What kept us going this year was that we knew we had the right pieces, we just had to figure out how where to put them so that we peaked at the right moment.”
It was a sweet moment for Charette, who won his third state title as a head coach, and fifth overall at LBCC, having won one as a player and one as an assistant coach. In eight seasons running the show at LBCC, Charette is now 140-28 with three state titles, five conference titles, and six years in the state Final Four. LBCC also improves to 3-0 in the state championship under Charette.
Opposite hitter Uriel Batista, a Panama native who played basketball on the youth national team there, provided a huge emotional lift. Almost all of his 10 kills came on big, clean swings and featured huge celebrations afterward. Batista hit an eye-popping .471 and added two of the team’s seven blocks.
“We play with our hearts, with big emotion,” said Batista. “The crowd was great, and we fed off their energy. Just get a point and go crazy.”
Lakewood alum Kyler Tufuga started at libero and had 10 digs in the match, commanding an impressive defensive effort that had 33 digs in just three sets, a big part of why the Lasers hit just .093 in the match, along with LBCC’s aggressive serves.
The future looks bright for the Vikings, who had just three sophomores on the roster this year, and only two who played on Saturday, Miller Davis (six kills) and Carlos Hernandez (seven kills, four blocks).
The event also featured a nice Long Beach volleyball synergy as Long Beach State men’s volleyball head coach Alan Knipe was inducted into the CCCAA Hall of Fame between the second and third sets.