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Samueli Academy boys’ volleyball team earns victory over Riverside Poly to win first sectional title in school history – Orange County Register

Samueli Academy head coach Henry Pena cheers with his team while holding the CIF Southern Section Division 6 boys volleyball championship plaque after defeating Riverside Poly on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

RIVERSIDE – Samueli Academy boys volleyball Henry Pena knew his team would have to deal with the heat that Riverside Poly junior, opposite hitter Weston Werner, brings.

Vitor Perez was up for the challenge as the junior libero prevented several balls from hitting the ground. Werner had some strong stretches during the match, but he was limited to 11 kills on 45 attempts.

Offensively, Samueli Academy’s Isaac Ramirez and David Zarate brought their own fire as the dynamic juniors combined for 28 total kills in leading the Firewolves to a 25-21, 25-23, 25-12 sweep of Riverside Poly in the CIF Southern . Friday evening Section Division 6 championship game.

This is the first Southern Section title in any sport for Samueli Academy, which opened in 2013.

“As any coach will tell you, it took a lot of hard work to get to this moment,” Pena said. “These guys are committed and committed. They set a goal for themselves and wanted it so badly.”

Samueli Academy (27-3) had a shaky moment early in the game, but those nerves quickly disappeared. Zarate had three straight kills and Perez served two aces to highlight the 8-0 run that gave the Firewolves a 9-4 lead in the opening set. Samueli Academy led by as many as eight points, but Riverside Poly made up for that deficit and even avoided four set points.

Ramirez took a set from Andrew Silverio on the right side and ripped a kill to close things out.

Perez’s digs, especially those of Werner’s strikes, drew cheers from the visiting crowd.

“My blockers are really good, so I just wanted to get to the balls that were coming through,” Perez said. “I just tried to play my game and be as consistent as possible. Get the ball up any way you can.”

Riverside Poly middle blocker Porter McCandless had four kills on five attacks in the opening frame, and he continued to have a hot hand for the Bears in the second set. McCandless had kills on his first six swings of the set, including back-to-back kills that gave Poly a 13-11 advantage.

“Porter is only a sophomore. He is very dedicated and focused and has become one of our strongest players,” said Poly coach Manuel Savalza. “He was big in creating the momentum that we had.”

However, Samueli Academy responded with an 11-5 run to regain control of the match. Allen Carriedo had three kills during that run, and Zarate helped the Firewolves get the win with two kills of his own.

Riverside Poly (23-12) fell into an early hole in the third set and Savalza decided to burn an early timeout. The Bears couldn’t stop the bleeding, however, as a slew of hitting errors helped extend Samueli Academy’s lead to double digits. Zarate and Ramirez combined for seven kills in the final frame, and a block from Carriedo and Haset Seyoum sparked the celebration for the Firewolves.

“We’ve had a lot of doubters over the years,” Perez said. “It’s a great feeling to win this for the seniors who put so much work into this program… Everyone is happy for them.”

Nathan Nguyen, who started the match as a setter, is one of four seniors on this year’s team.

“It feels great to accomplish something like this,” said Nguyen. “We worked so hard for it”

Zarate finished with a match-high 15 kills, while Ramirez added 13 kills and three aces.

Savalza said he believed serving and receiving were the biggest differences in the outcome. Samueli Academy had seven aces in the match. Poly scored no aces, but made seven service errors.

Despite Friday’s result, Savalza said the program has taken a step forward and has a bright future.

“We only had two seniors on the field today. I see great things for us next year,” Savalza said. ‘We’ll come back and get to work. And hopefully we will be even stronger next season.”

McCandless finished with 11 kills to tie Werner for the team lead.