LATHROP — Manteca was like all the other boys volleyball teams in the Valley Oak League at the start of the season; a ragtag group of athletes — some standouts in other sports — trying something new for the fun of it.
But it was a little different for these Buffaloes.
When Kevin Bolding, who coaches the girls team in the fall, first met with the boys one of his players inquired about the postseason. At the time, Bolding wasn’t sure that the VOL would even send teams to the playoffs in its inaugural season.
They were in it to make history.
“That’s what they were looking forward to, and it’s tough because you have to take it one step at a time,” Bolding said. “They’ve done a good job of managing that.
“To see them from the start to now — huge difference,” he added.
Manteca locked up at least a portion of the VOL title Wednesday, sweeping past a young but determined Lathrop club, 26-24, 25-20, 25-11.
The Buffaloes (8-0 VOL, 13-2 overall) can claim it outright by winning one of their final two matches next week. They’ll face second-place Kimball on Monday and East Union on May 3 both at home.
This might be the first league title for the school’s boys volleyball team, but some of the players are already proven champions. Cameron Reis and Kyle Reis are both members of the VOL and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship football team, and 6-foot-8 Tydus Verhoeven helped the boys basketball team win its first state crown last year.
“They want to compete, whether it’s in a game or in practice. That’s huge,” Bolding said. “With most teams, you have to kind of build that into them and these guys just have that mindset and it’s probably from playing in other sports. From top to bottom, it doesn’t matter who is out there; they all want to compete.”
Kylan Chandler is ecstatic to be able to compete in the sport he loves most. The junior outside hitter is Manteca’s best all-around player and most experienced having played for a club team in the Bay Area. He had 12 kills and 11 digs on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t really good at football and track was just something to do,” Chandler said. “I’ve played volleyball for years just not for the school. When I heard about the opportunity to play volleyball here I hopped on.”
Chandler and Manteca’s dominant middles were too much for the Spartans (3-6, 3-9), who are the youngest and shortest team in the VOL but arguably the most promising.
Joseph Borres (19 digs) went on a five-point service run capped by Cameron Reis’ overpass kill to help Manteca stake a 12-7 lead in the first game. Lathrop later gave itself a chance to steal the set.
Tyler Riggleman sparked a six-point burst with a kill, and suddenly the Spartans had game point in hand, 24-22. Manteca recovered and scored four unanswered points. Reis blocked a Riggleman spike then hammered home the clinching point with a kill.
The 6-4 Reis finished with eight kills and three blocks, while Verhoeven added 12 kills and three blocks. Oswaldo Garcia (five kills, 15 assists) and Jonathan Borres (16 assists, two aces) split time at setter.
“They have a great future, a lot of young talent,” Reis said of Lathrop. “I think when they grow and get bigger they’ll be a team that will push for a VOL title.”
Riggleman paced Lathrop with 10 kills and 15 digs. Freshman Gian Serrano collected six kills, eight digs and two blocks. Gabriel Gutierrez had 15 digs, and Ysreal Gutierrez chipped in with three blocks and two aces.
Lathrop has just nine players, and all of them are underclassmen.
“We start off with energy and it just dies after that,” Riggleman said. “We need to come in with energy and stick with it all the way through.
“We’ve improved so much. We are where we should have been at the beginning of the season. When we have seniors we’re going to be better.”
Lathrop wraps up its season at Weston Ranch next Monday.