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June 30, 2022

Christopher boys volleyball team sets numerous program records

A season-ending three-set loss to Bellarmine in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs on May 10 couldn’t put a damper on the Christopher High boys volleyball team’s historic season. 

It was a season for precedents as the Cougars (21-5) won the Carmel tournament and Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division championship for the first time in program history while being placed in the inaugural Open Division for boys volleyball. 

They also had players set several statistical records. 

“It was a hell of a season,” Christopher coach Kevin Bruce said moments after the Bellarmine loss. Game scores were 25-15, 25-21, 26-24. “There had never been an Open Division before and we would’ve never qualified before this year. Just to be placed in the Open was an honor.”

That’s because it meant CHS was one of the eight best teams in the CCS. That shouldn’t have been a surprise considering they had two marquee talents in Stanford-signee Ryan DuRoss and Hawaii commit Kai Rodriguez. The dynamic duo had little trouble hitting past the Bellarmine block.

However, the Cougars’ ball control was spotty compared to the Bells’ and that ultimately made the difference in the match. Bellarmine was able to get the ball to its big gun, Moses Wagner, a Stanford-signee, a lot more often than CHS was able to set up DuRoss and Rodriguez for clean attack attempts. 

CHS got off to an agonizingly slow start, committing a half-dozen service errors in Game 1 alone and netting a handful more in the first several points of Game 2. Once the Cougars finally started making less errors, they were able to stay in system and run their offense. 

Additionally, their body language was markedly different for Game 3, as if they finally had a belief in themselves they belonged on the same court with Bellarmine. It showed in their play, as they rallied from a 16-11 deficit to get to a game point at 24-23. 

But the Bells scored the next three points to take the victory. 

“We opened up really slow and timid, as a lot of them aren’t used to the CCS do-or-die situation,” Bruce said. “Once we settled in that third set, our serve-receive improved and we were able to run our offense and hang with them. We could’ve and should’ve won that third set.”

Rodriguez led the team with 11 kills and DuRoss had eight. DuRoss had 42 kills in the team’s second match against San Benito this season, breaking a school record. Rodriguez broke his own record for service aces and served points and setter Zack Zollinger broke the school record for assists, Bruce said. 

Even though the team will graduate DuRoss and Zollinger, the cupboard will be far from bare next season. In addition to a premier talent in Rodriguez, CHS is also projected to return libero Marli Cabana, middle Christian Kjellesvig, outside hitter Damien Gomez, middle Tim McCain and outside hitter Will Anderson. 

All of the projected returners—especially Cabana, Gomez and Kjellesvig—played vital roles this season. Cabana was one of the team’s best passers and defensive players, Kjellesvig could terminate points in the middle and Gomez displayed the ability to finish points and come up with blocks. 

But the loss of Zollinger will be particularly acute if Bruce can’t find a solid setter to replace him. 

“Kai is great, he’s a stud and he’ll be great for us next year, but we have to find someone to get him the ball,” Bruce said. “Zack is graduating and we don’t really have his replacement lined up yet so we’ll have to find somebody. Of course the setter is one of the most important positions so I can’t pull out just a basketball kid and say ‘set up the ball.’”

Rodriguez enjoyed his time with the team this season. A player on the powerhouse 16u Bay to Bay club team, Rodriguez has been playing volleyball for most of his life and it shows. His dad is a longtime coach and the 6-foot-3 Rodriguez possesses a supreme all-around game, able to pass well, hit the ball through and off the block, to go along with a potent jump serve. 

“I’ll remember this season for how good we were,” he said. “We pulled out some really great wins and I’m really proud of the guys for doing really well.”

Ryan DuRoss makes a pass during Christopher’s three-set loss to Bellarmine in the CCS playoffs. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
Christian Kjellesvig delivers a kill in Christopher’s CCS Open Division match vs. Bellarmine. Photo by Bryant Hammer.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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