Can the Camarillo High boys volleyball team ride its all-for-one mentality to championships in both the Pacific View League and CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs?
Together, the Scorpions are determined to find out.
In the midst of the program’s finest season since 2003, Camarillo stands 18-2, has already won two tournaments and is the strong favorite to win its first solo league title since 2006.
Camarillo is currently ranked No. 5 in Division 3, and has won the respect of its coach.
“I knew we’d be good this season,” says Camarillo coach Rob Vandermay. “But I’m not sure we would play this well, at least to this point. Winning two tournaments early on kind of gave us an indication of what we’re capable of doing.”
The Scorpions won the Ventura tournament for only the second time in program history, and followed by winning the championship of the San Luis Obispo Tournament.
The parallels are becoming strikingly similar to 2003, when Camarillo finished 19-1 and won the program’s only CIF-SS championship.
That team had a bona fide star in Eric Vance, who went on to play at Cal State Northridge. This team may not have a player of Vance’s caliber, but it has a number of very good players who sacrifice for the team.
“Eric Vance was a great player, but we had to have a number of players come together for that team to win a championship,” said Vandermay. “This team is just like that. They play so well together that we’re very difficult to beat.
“One coach we played up in San Luis Obispo told me just that. He said that he may have seen better individual talent at the tournament, but there was no one who played as well as a team as we do.”
The Scorpions are hardly devoid of top-notch talent.
Jesse Flitt, the senior setter, is playing at an MVP level. Hitters like 6-foot-6 middle blocker Danny Reilly and 6-3 outside hitter Christian Vanouwerkerk are performing like the seasoned seniors they are.
But what will make Camarillo a tough out in the CIF-SS playoffs is it unique chemistry.
The Scorpions have endured tough losses, including first-round playoff defeats the past two seasons. They’ve absorbed the lessons, and spent the offseason mostly training together to get ready for this season.
Not only did the bulk of the Scorpions train and play together in a beach volleyball league, they played as a group in several high school tournament under the direction of Vandermay.
The Scorpions coach said first-round defeats the past two years — to Royal in 2009 and Claremont in 2010 — helped hone his players for this season.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to go through some tough losses together to take that next step,” he said. “I think it’s made a difference for this group. They know what it takes to succeed at a high level. They know what it takes to beat a top opponent.”
For now, the focus is on winning the Pacific View League. That means taking it one match at a time.
“That can be tough,” said Vandermay. “There are times when our guys just want to get onto the playoffs. It’s my job as a coach to keep them focused on each match, one game at a time. If I can do that, it will make us a better team for postseason.”