Going into this season, the Morro Bay High boys volleyball team had three goals in mind.
Beat Santa Ynez, capture the Los Padres League championship and get out of the first round of the playoffs.
The Pirates had already accomplished the first two goals by last week.
By Tuesday night, they completed the third goal after beating Channel Islands of Oxnard in five thrilling sets (23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 21-25, 15-10) to open the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs at the Morro Bay High gym.
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The Pirates will face either Arcadia or Warren of Downey on Thursday in the second round.
Tuesday’s win helps put aside last year’s first-round playoff loss to Rio Mesa.
“This year, whoever stepped in front of us, we just wanted to beat them,” Morro Bay coach James Bueno said. “We made three goals. We’ve achieved them all.”
In the final set, Edward Griley stepped up big for the Pirates (21-5). With a 10-6 lead, the 6-foot-8 senior made two key blocks — including one to give Morro Bay match-point. Jeremiah Valoaga, Channel Islands’ top player, attempted a kill that hit the net and gave the Pirates the victory.
“The last set, the mentality we had was it was a game to 15. It goes by a lot faster than you think, and we knew we had to get on top of them quick,” Morro Bay’s Scott Milligan said. “Once we got up 10-6, we kept pushing from there.”
Griley finished with 15 kills and 10 blocks, Milligan added 10 kills and Marcus Zorovich had 45 assists.
“For most of us, it’s our senior year,” Griley said. “We wanted to come out and go past the first round, so that happened. Our emotions after the game were incredible, because we went five games. We didn’t think we’d go five. We thought we were going to get them in the fourth. But in the fifth one, everyone was pumped.”
The Pirates had to battle back against Channel Islands (13-13), the No. 3 team in the Pacific View League. The Raiders won the first set before Morro Bay stormed back in the second after taking the lead at 7-6.
Morro Bay finished off the third game with a block from Jackson Chavez.
It was back-and-forth in the fourth, but Channel Islands won with big plays from Valoaga, who was the Raiders’ main offensive weapon.
But Bueno wasn’t worried about his Pirates going into the final set, especially after seeing what they’ve accomplished this season. They beat powerhouse Santa Ynez twice on their way to Morro Bay’s first league title with an undefeated record. Santa Ynez was going for its 20th consecutive LPL title this season.
“One of the downfalls my team has is, when they play desperate, they don’t play well,” he said. “One of the things I tell them in the huddle when we have a timeout is, ‘We need to play determined, not desperate.’ Volleyball is a momentum sport. You have to have momentum when you’re playing it and you can’t be negative. So I called a time out and restructured the team and try to cheer them up a little bit.“We play well when we’re having fun.”