By Jeremy Balan
Just looking at the benches, it is clear the Balboa High School and Urban School boys’ volleyball programs are at different stages of development.
The Buccaneers, just a year removed from their first Academic Athletic Association championship in 2009, had a packed bench of 10 players, while Urban, in just its third year of varsity competition, featured two.
Still, the Blues didn’t go down without a fight, but the Bucs’ depth and experience proved too much to overcome in a 25-17, 25-15, 25-16 non-league win on Wednesday at Balboa High School.
“Not a whole lot of these guys have experience,” said first-year Urban head coach Roberto Chui. “Right now, they’re pretty much learning the basics and the game in general. The game is just too fast right now, but they are getting better.”
The balanced Balboa (1-2) attack featured nine separate players who recorded kills, led by four from middle blocker Jared Lucero, who also had two blocks.
“We have a lot of young guys, so we’re trying to build our base right now,” said Balboa head coach Jacky Su. “We only have five returners back from last season and they weren’t the starters on the team. Hopefully they get stronger as the year goes on.”
For the Blues (0-2), unforced errors plagued them throughout, but whenever Balboa would go on an extended run, Urban responded, often scrapping for points on hustle plays and pure effort.
“I like the fact that they’re really trying and really putting the effort out,” Chui said. “I know they can get better and I see potential in them, they just have to want to put the work in.”
The Blues also may have had the best player on the floor, in junior Evan Chang, who handled most of the setting duties, but was also Urban’s best hitter. But as the game progressed, the weight of carrying much of the load appeared to impact his play.
“He’s our one guy that plays club,” Chui said. “He might be putting too much pressure on himself, where he thinks he has to do everything perfect. He can’t think that he’s going to win the whole game [by himself].”
Balboa and Su, even after their first win of the season, also see plenty of room for improvement after a fourth-place finish in the AAA last season.
“We have a lot of work to do with all of the new guys coming in,” Su said. “We need to really work on our passing, then everything builds from there.”