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Chandler’s experience keyed Manteca to VOL’s 1st title

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Manteca outside hitter Kylan Chandler knocks it over the net for a point against Hilmar during the Buffaloes’ first Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff match.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED July 5, 2017 11:39 p.m.

Kylan Chandler played a part in bringing boys volleyball to the Manteca area.

He then helped bring the first Valley Oak League championship in the sport to Manteca High. His experience, leadership and all-around ability keyed the Buffaloes’ mostly-dominant inaugural season, and Chandler is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Volleyball MVP. 

“He meant everything to us,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said. “We’re lucky enough to have him for another year.”

Chandler produced 102 kills and 102 digs during Manteca’s perfect 10-0 run in league. The Buffaloes’ season ended at the hands of top-seeded Golden Sierra in the SJS Division III semifinals, finishing 16-3 overall. All in all, it was a remarkable season for a ragtag group of athletes that had little to no prior volleyball experience.

It was Chandler who tied it all together. He was Manteca’s only player with  a competitive club resume and has ample experience at every position. He currently serves as an outside hitter for Pacific Rim out of the Bay Area.

Growing pains were expected at the start for Manteca and the other five VOL schools. Manteca stumbled out the gates, dropping two of its first three contests. The Buffaloes then stampeded their way to a 15-match winning streak.

“I thought it was going to be harder than it actually was,” Chandler said. “The guys that we had were athletes, and it wasn’t hard to get them to play at a higher level. They picked everything up quick. 

“We lost our first game and we didn’t even have our jerseys yet, but I probably wouldn’t recognize that team now. We’ve improved so much since then.”

The Buffaloes flattened their VOL rivals. In 10 matches, they claimed 30 of the 34 games they played. The lone challenge came from Weston Ranch in their second showdown. Manteca swept the first meeting but dropped the first two sets in the rematch, eventually battling back for a 13-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11 win.

“We knew at that point we were unstoppable,” Chandler said. “We started out playing our worst game and it ended up playing our best.”

He acknowledged that Weston Ranch helped bring the best out of his club.

“From the first game to the last game, the amount of improvement through the whole league was the same,” Chandler said. “We got better, but so did everybody else. It was crazy how much better they were when we played them the second time.”

Chandler put all of his skills on display during Manteca’s first postseason match. Seeded fourth, the Buffaloes hosted No. 5 Hilmar and prevailed 25-18, 28-26, 25-8. Chandler had 10 kills, 10 digs and four blocks.

“When we beat Hilmar I was like, ‘We’re winning sections,’” Chandler said. “I got pretty cocky, and of course it didn’t turn out that way, but it was the highest point of our season.”

The Buffaloes were knocked off cloud 9 in the following round. Golden Sierra, a far more established program with four straight Sierra Delta League championships, cruised to a 25-16, 25-19, 25-18 win. It wasn’t the best effort from Manteca, but the setback only serves as motivation for next year.

“We of thought we were all that and a bag of chips, but then we go and get swept by this monster team,” Chandler said. “It was an eye-opener for us. I don’t think it really discouraged anybody. I think next year we’re going to come out even stronger.”

Another source of motivation for these upstart Buffs were the All-Valley Oak League selections. Chandler was hardly considered for the league’s MVP award and barely made the first team. Manteca also had arguably the two best middles in the league in 6-foot-4 Cameron Reis and basketball star Tydus Verhoeven. Reis settled for a spot on the second team, and the 6-8 Verhoeven didn’t even make honorable mention.

“It’s a little upsetting that the league didn’t recognize the great athletes we have on our team,” Chandler said. “Personally, I wasn’t affected by the MVP thing, but I thought my teammates deserved better. It’s a little unfair, but the only thing we can do is work harder and really prove we’re the best.”

No matter the outcome of the season, Chandler is proud to be part of something new for not just his team but the area. Boys volleyball was strictly played in the Sacramento area in the SJS up until 2016 when a handful of schools in the southern parts started teams.

Manteca Unified had begun discussions of possibly beginning boys volleyball in 2018, but Chandler — urged by his mother Robin Chandler, who served as Bolding’s assistant — made a presentation at a school board meeting pleading his case to start sooner rather than later.

“I got a good reception from the board and found out a few months later it was put in the budget,” Chandler said. “It was pretty cool.

“I’m so glad it happened before my senior year. I didn’t do it on my own, it was a right-place, right-time kind of thing. I’m just so happy it all worked out, because the amount of potential in this area for the sport is insane.”

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