Boys volleyball teams were off to strong start at schedule pause

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The Grossmont High School boys volleyball team was off to a promising 7-2 start this spring.

GROSSMONT FOOTHILLERS SEE 7-2 SHOWING PUT ON HOLD, ECV BRAVES WERE OFF TO 7-3 START

The 2020 boys volleyball season was showing promise for several local high school teams before the spring schedule was paused due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The Grossmont Foothillers, last year’s Division III runners-up, were off to a 7-2 start while El Cajon Valley was 7-3, Helix was 4-1 and El Capitan was 6-4 to highlight play among East County squads.

It was shaping up to be a very interesting season, especially in league play, until the spring sports slate was cancelled April 3 by the CIF state office.

“The biggest disappointment on the ending of the spring sports seasons has to be for all of the seniors,” Grossmont coach Peter Phillips said. “It’s so unfair that so much has been taken away from them.

“It was very difficult to find the right words when we met for the final time as a team. I just told them that we have to keep everything in perspective. While playing sports is important, our safety and well-being is paramount during this very difficult and uncertain time.”

The Foothillers started the season with a 3-1 setback to visiting Ramona on Feb. 20 but defeated host Orange Glen, 3-2, on Feb. 24 to pick up their first win of the season.

Grossmont quickly built momentum with a 4-1 showing in the 51-team Sweetwater Prime Sports Invitational Feb. 28-29 in National City.

The Foothillers compiled three-game sweeps of both Point Loma and Mission Hills in ensuing non-tournament encounters to enter the schedule pause with wins in seven of their last eight games.

“We were really excited about the 2020 season,” Phillips explained. “After coming off a second-place finish in the Division III championship last season, we were gearing up for another CIF and league title run this year.”

Grossmont returned five starters from last year’s team and had a total of 12 seniors on this year’s team. Top returners included senior outside hitters Josh Barnes and Noah O’Clancy, senior setter Marc Cordero, and senior middle hitters Alex Oleksyn and Zion Henderson.

Top kill leaders included Barnes and O’Clancy. Cordero led the team in assists while Oleksyn led the team in blocks.

Junior Harrison Cox earned a starting role this year as the libero.

Phillips said he is currently not aware of any post-season all-star plans. “I think it would be great if our top seniors were able to be recognized and play one last time,” he said.

The Foothillers completed pool play at the Sweetwater tournament with victories against High Tech High Chula Vista (25-14, 25-11), Del Lago Academy (25-12, 26-24) and Fallbrook (25-21, 25-18).

Grossmont advanced to the Gold Bracket playoffs but lost in the first round to eventual runner-up Coronado in three games. The Foothillers won the first game 25-19 before the Islanders prevailed by scores of 25-19, 15-13.

Grossmont received the No. 3 seed in last year’s CIF playoffs and defeated sixth-seeded Escondido and seventh-seeded Chula Vista before being swept by Grossmont Hills League champion Valhalla in the championship game.

The Norsemen won by scores of 25-23, 25-13, 25-21.

Home of the Braves

El Cajon Valley entered the pause riding a four-game winning streak following non-league victories against Maranatha Christian, Granite Hills, Mountain Empire and Madison.

The Braves posted a 2-3 record at the Sweetwater tournament after qualifying for the Silver Bracket playoffs. They defeated Chula Vista by a score of 25-21, 25-19 in the opening round before being swept by Madison in the quarterfinals.

Sophomore Daniel Jacobs led ECV with 59 kills in 23 sets at the schedule pause while classmate Mohammad Zafari had 58 kills and a team-leading 25 aces.

Junior Christopher Aguirre paced the Braves with 23 blocks while junior Jose Munoz topped the team with 91 digs. Senior Juan De Santiago led the team with 38 assists.

Deep purple

Santana opened the season with a 2-3 record. Kills leaders included juniors Carson Burton (58), Aiden Rasmussen (32) and Tatumn Vesco (23). Junior Trevor Finn led the team with 10 aces while junior Isac Sanchez had 13 blocks.

Senior Sam Campos paced the Sultans with 125 digs while freshman Adam Wilshusen had racked up 112 assists.