Trojans survive Vista's surge to stay undefeated

By: Patrick Ibarra
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Looks can be deceiving. Just ask an undefeated Oak Ridge High School varsity boys volleyball squad coming into a Sierra Valley Conference match expecting a blowout, and its opponent, a Vista del Lago High boys volleyball team full of juniors and sophomores with a 3-2 overall record coming in. At first glance, it looks like a slaughter in the making. On Thursday at Vista del Lago, it was a battle instead. Vista del Lago threw expectations for the match out the window with a 7-2 start to the first game before eventually falling 25-18. Oak Ridge won game two, 25-16, and game three, 25-18, for the three game sweep, but all three games were back-and-forth affairs until the 15-point mark. “I think they came in a little overconfident,” Oak Ridge coach Tom Van Der Wende said of his players. “They’ve got a good program here and the guys look stronger than I think we expected. Our guys realized we needed to play some better ball than we were.” “It was a great opportunity for us to see some good volleyball,” Vista del Lago coach Patrick Sanders said. “The kids were excited about it. They were excited to play a big match at home and I think they showed that in the first two games. It’s a big game for us. We’re rivals; a little bit of a budding rivalry if you will.” Oak Ridge ’s team play and experience took over at the end of each game, passing the ball crisply and finishing with a sense of urgency not present early on. A 21-15 lead in game two ended with Oak Ridge only giving up one more point in the game. In the third game after playing to a 12-12 tie, Oak Ridge pulled away with a 7-2 run before putting the game, and match, away for good. “It’s been a little bit frustrating so far this season with the competition we’ve been seeing,” said Van Der Wende, who has seen his team win some pretty easy matches this season. “These guys were good and it was good for us to see a little bit better volleyball.” Vista del Lago moved to 3-3 overall and hopes to continue the learning process of a new varsity volleyball program, one currently banking on leadership from a few juniors and a handful of sophomores. “They don’t think of themselves as juniors,” Sanders said. “The vibe around campus is they are the upperclassmen. They are the leaders on our team. That has to be so; otherwise we have no one to look to.” The Trojans upped their record to 9-0 on the season, with a tournament slated this weekend and some lofty goals the rest of the way. “They want to win the league for sure,” Van Der Wende said of his players. “It’s probably going to come down to us and Ponderosa. I haven’t seen them yet, but I understand they’re pretty good. After league, we’re hoping we can take it as far as we can into NorCals.”