By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
SAN GABRIEL — The only way to describe the San Gabriel High School volleyball team’s domination Tuesday night was simpley amazement.
That’s the way Culver City coach Joe Manzo described the Matadors’ resilient play as second-seeded San Gabriel cruised to an easy 25-15, 25-20, 25-17 win in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
San Gabriel (26-3) will play for the championship Saturday at Cypress College at a time to be determined. The Matadors likely will draw top-seed Santa Monica, which made a semifinals run in Division 3 last year before moving down a division.
CLICK ON THREAD TO CONTINUE READING
It will be the first time San Gabriel reaches the final since Cabrillo stormed back from an 0-2 deficit to win the title in 2003. The Matadors’ football team is aware of the fortune the volleyball team’s success brings to them — that fall in 2003 San Gabriel’s football team went on to also play for the then-Division VII final against South Hills.
The boisterous crowd was treated to an efficient game that saw long rallies in the first and second games, each team winning a gritty point that had both side of the stands on their feet.
San Gabriel’s Johnson Diep proved to be the strong link that connected the Matadors to early success. He setup his teammates in near flawless fashion and dissected Culver City’s strategy. Diep figured out the Centaurs early.
“Johnson ran the middle amazingly and we couldn’t stop them,” Manzo said. “Johnson’s passing was the key to their success because their passing gave them every option they wanted. Johnson figured out what we wanted to do.”
San Gabriel coach Chris Kwan, in his 14th year as head coach, said Diep’s ability to command the offense proved vital.
“I don’t need to coach him becuase he’s our coach on the floor,” said Kwan, who has been coaching at the school since 1989. “He just does everything we need him to do. He can be a good coach one day, and I hope he does go into coaching because someone’s going to have to take over for me one day.”
Culver City, which made its deepest run this season in school history after a first-round ouster last year, will lose 10 seniors to graduation. It was Manzo’s first season at the helm.
San Gabriel’s John Phang recorded a team-high 13 kills and Kevin Quach and Harrison Tang each added 12. Michael Tang had seven digs and two aces while Tang added four blocks.
San Gabriel built an early lead and capitalized on three Culver City service errors to build momentum. The Matadors got off to a 12-4 lead in the first game. The second game was knotted four times before San Gabriel reeled off a 7-2 run to take an early 10-6 lead. The second game was fueled by another 6-0 run lead to give the Matadors a 17-9 lead.
On match point, Diep stood ready behind the line as the fan rose to its feet. There were eight touches before Phang recorded his final kill on a thunderous strike that had no chance, just like Culver City had little chance building momentum as San Gabriel deflected and blocked seemingly every attempt.
“That’s San Gabriel style,” Kwan said. “We have to be scrappy. We’re never going to be the tall team or the power team, but we have to be the more finesse team. If someone’s going to beat us it’s because they’re really better than us, not because we’re not prepared.”
626-578-6300, ext. 4485