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Sunny Hills boys volleyball rises from newcomer to CIF-SS Division 5 champion

LONG BEACH >> The Sunny Hills boys volleyball team is officially on the map.

After just two full seasons of existence as a program, the Lancers became CIF-SS champions Saturday by sweeping top-seeded Carpinteria 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 in the Division 5 final at Long Beach City College.

Sunny Hills coach Albert Soliguen was overcome with joy after the victory.

“It’s surreal, it’s been a crazy journey,” he said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in now. We’ve done a lot of goal-setting, and we spoke it into existence and that was the biggest thing. We had a road map to get to this point.”

The Lancers (23-5) received great performances from Ezra Vlad, Zach Tan and Nathan Casasola, who were all connecting on accurate, big swings.

The Warriors (21-9) didn’t help their cause by committing unforced errors while also showing lapses and lacking communication when the ball was in play.

Sunny Hills was up 16-7 in the second set after a Tan kill, but Carpinteria responded with a 4-0 run. Tan added another kill and Vlad combined with Logan Logan Filadelfia for the block on match point in the second set.

Carpinteria improved its play in the third set thanks to Joaquin Gonzalez and River Taff.

Soliguen told his team not to be passive just before championship match point.

“We get to attack on this point, we have to sideout, we have to stay disciplined and we have to come out with intensity and aggression,” Soliguen said he told his team. “We need to end it now, one and done right here, right now.”

Senior middle blocker Erza Vlad took matters into his own hands with the title-clinching swing.

“He played a very important role for our team,” Soliguen said of Vlad. “I always preach to my boys that everyone has a role on the team, everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a job that they need to do, and with Erza his role was making sure that he got started early, establishing the middles early, staying disciplined on his block, he was key on offense and defense.”

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