Last week I attended the California Southern Section State Boys Volleyball Championships. In over 60 years being a professional in the sports field, I have never been privy to watching a more exciting Championship final, then the match I witnessed between little Oak Park and perennial champion Mira Costa. Mira Costa is located in Manhattan Beach, California home of the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame.
As I sat in the stands rooting for the giant killers (Oak Park), I thought to myself why did this team with its small student body have the right to challenge the perennial powerhouse Mira Costa? Thus I drew a parallel and called Oak Park, the "Hoosiers" of 2012.
In 1986, Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper starred in a movie entitled "The Hoosiers". It was based on the true story of little Milan High School, who in 1954, against all odds, met and defeated South Bend High School for the Indiana State Basketball Championship. South Bend like Mira Costa, had a student population far greater than that of little Milan.
Milan upset South Bend in the finals.
Alas, Oak Park, Ventura County's most underrated team, was to lose in the 5th game of the most exciting match I had ever seen. It ended in overtime of the 5th game. It took three hours with a minimum of mistakes on each side. Oak Park had four championship points, which they could not convert, only to finally lose by two points in the 5th game.
It was touch-and-go all the way. The lead changed hands too many times to count. As for the officiating, there were a great many low points.
I was sitting with my son-in-law Danny Medford, himself a CIF Basketball official, who very seldom comments on the officiating, but the last two points which were obvious miscalls, ( a throw overlooked and a net that didn't happen), went against Oak Park. Other CIF Volleyball Officials in attendance also pointed this out.
Please understand, I write this not to take anything away from Mira Costa. They deserved to win, but so did Oak Park. In my eyes, they are co-champions.
At one point in my career, I was President of the IVA following the great Wilt Chamberlain in this capacity. My friend, Mike O'Hara, a Volleyball Hall of Famer and founder of the league, tutored me in the nuances of the game.
In fact, the State Playoffs proved that Oak Park who beat 3 Nationally -ranked teams in the Playoffs , proved they could play with anyone in the nation.
However, all of this being said, its ironic that locally all the press is on other teams who have lost to Oak Park. Neither Westlake, nor Oaks Christian has ever beaten them. Yet, they remain under the radar. It's time for their light to be brought out from under the bushel.
I have often written articles, which talk about the need for student-athletes to be just that... students. To that end, Coach Pat Quinn points with
pride to the fact that of his ten players, 8 carry 4.0 averages, or better. This is a tribute to a man and a school that places academic achievement, before sports accomplishment.
It also means that the parents supporting these young athletes understand the inherent value therein. Seniors Jake Rice, Justin Parks, Matt Woo, Sam Saltman and Josh Swedelson are among this group.
Pat has been with the Oak Park Volleyball team since its inception becoming Head Coach in 2007. The current team has never been defeated in the Tri- Valley League and has a string of over 60 straight wins.
The existence of a Boys Volleyball Team at Oak Park actually came about due to parents Dennis Fliegelman and Robert Cochran who started working on this endeavor back in 2001 meeting with success in 2005. They were met with constant opposition. So, in essence the program is under 10 years old.
The team has many outstanding players in all the different categories. Justin Parks delivered the most kills. In the area of Kill and Hitting percentage, Nick Fahn led this category. Mike Campbell made the most Blocks. Bradley Sakada had the most Aces. P The least talked about statistics, but perhaps the most important... Digs and Assists were consistently delivered by Brendon Parks (Digs) and Sam Saltman (Assists).
The fact that a different team member led in each category is truly a tribute to Quinn's Coaching and his emphasis on teamwork.
Next week when the various All-Star teams are announced, I am betting that the names listed above will be evident at all levels.