Damien boys volleyball team draws top seed in Division 5 playoffs

Damien celebrates their win over Arrowhead Christian for the CIF-SS Division 5 boys volleyball championship at Cerritos College in Norwalk, CA, Saturday, May 23, 2015. Damien defeated Arrowhead Christian 3-1 for the title. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Damien celebrates CIF title last spring. They are favored to repeat.

The Damien boys volleyball team won a CIF title last year. And while the Spartans might not be quite as potent as last year, they’re capable of repeating.

The CIF playoff pairings were released and the Spartans have drawn the No. 1 seed as expected. Not only are they the defending champion, they were ranked No. 1 much of the season.

“We’re not quite what we were last year but we’re still a pretty solid team,” coach Randy Bohlmann said. “We have some guys that have been there before so they have some big match experience.”

Damien cruised through the Hacienda League play, dropping just two sets in nine matches. Bohlmann’s squad was challenged in a couple of top notch tournaments though, the most notable one an event it won in San Diego last month.

The team is led by a trio of returning senior starters in libero Nick Hibshman and outside hitters Michael Spinney and  Chris Mercado.

The Spartans (27-7) will open the playoffs at home Tuesday against the winner of a wild card match between Dunn and Pomona, both third-place finishers in their respective leagues.

“We have played some pretty good competition so we’re about as ready as we can be,” Bohlmann said.

The Spartans did have a minor setback late in the season as junior setter Brandon Nyquist, a defensive specialist on the team last year, sustained a foot injury late in league play. Junior Jack Mitcher, who set on the junior varsity team last year, took over in his absence and did an admirable job,

Bohlmann isn’t sure what lineup he’ll use quite yet. He said they’re different type of setters so he can’t just run a 6-2 offense. Nyquist handled the job during the balance of the season but Mitchner is taller and can be a bigger asset when it comes to blocking,

There is considerable local representation in Division 5 with other wild card teams including Arrowhead Christian, the runner-up to Damien last year, Rim of the World and Ontario Christian with Loma Linda, Ganesha, Indian Springs and San Gorgonio in the main draw.

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