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Millikan Volleyball Wilson

Beach Volleyball: Millikan’s Smith, Orbiso Win Moore League Title in Comeback Thriller

The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

There’s no doubt that Millikan duo Olivia Smith and Sophia Orbiso entered last week’s Moore League beach volleyball pairs title match as underdogs. Smith and Orbiso’s opponent was Wilson’s Kate Eckenrode and Simrin Adams, a duo that hadn’t lost a match all year and came into the tournament with the top seed, having only dropped even a single set all season.

Smith and Orbiso dropped the first set and fell behind 6-1 in the second, but continued to stay in the moment and play as hard as they could. The Rams’ historic pair flipped momentum and kept pressing as they flipped the script. They didn’t enter the day as favorites, but they left it as champions, defeating Eckenrode/Adams 13-21, 21-18, 15-7.

“Oh we were definitely the underdogs,” laughed Orbiso after the match. “Our coach asked us how confident we were before the game. (Olivia) thought it was a seven out of 10 that we’d win and I thought it was a five out of ten.”

“We came out and the first set was rough, but we got our footing and we got our balance and we won the second and third set,” said Smith. “We kept talking to each other so if we missed a point or a play we’d know that we had each others’ backs for the next point.”

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Smith and Orbiso so successfully got into a flow state of competition that they didn’t keep track of the score at all, and initially didn’t realize that they’d won the Moore League pairs championship.

“We just pretended the score was 0-0 the whole time,” said Smith. “I didn’t even look at the score and I honestly didn’t know we’d won until we saw all our teammates running out to us.”

From the point they trailed 6-1 in the second set they outscored their opponents 35-19. The duo complemented each other well with their skill sets throughout the match, and have grown tremendously throughout the season as a first-year pairing.

“Over the season our chemistry did get better,” said Orbiso. “We’re more comfortable with each other and we trust each other.”

“I trust Sophia on the serve receive part and she trusts me on the offensive side, we work really well with each other and we’ve grown to know each other so well over the season,” said Smith.

Next up for all the Moore League teams are the team CIF Southern Section playoffs this week, and then eventually the pairs tournament. In addition to the league champs, Eckenrode and Adams will earn an automatic berth into the CIF-SS tournament and will be among the favorites to win it. 

It was an all-Rams battle for third place as Bethany Arnold and Lila Walters defeated Cali Tirado and Sophia Nygaard to claim the bronze.

PHOTOS: Millikan vs Wilson Moore League Beach Volleyball Pairs Championship
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.