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Lathrop makes East Union earn VOL-opening sweep
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East Union outside hitter Zach Carter (5) connects for the spike against the block of Lathrops Ysreal Gutierrez (4) and Tyler Riggleman (8) in the Valley Oak League opener for both teams Monday at Dalben Center. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Things just got real for area boys volleyball teams.
The first-ever match in the Valley Oak League took place Monday at East Union’s Dalben Center, and the Lancers had their hands full in a sweep of Lathrop. They were in danger of losing the first two sets but got it together in time to race to a 25-23, 30-28, 25-19 win.
“It’s cool; the first league game we won,” East Union middle blocker Andy Parcells said. “It has been fun doing this with my friends. Hopefully we can win the rest of them.”
Victory was there for the taking for the young Spartans, at least at the start.
Trailing 3-9 early in the first set, Mark Fabian sparked Lathrop with a kill and promising freshman outside hitter Gian Serrano racked up seven straight service points to give the Spartans a 10-9 lead.
Serrano was at the service line again late in the game as the Spartans threatened to take the opening game. His spike tied it at 20-20, then Ysreal Gutierrez rapped a kill of his own to force East Union coach Courtney Ozment to burn a timeout. That did little to slow their roll, as Tyler Riggleman registered a kill and Serrano came up with an ace.
East Union responded by scoring the final five points of the set, capping the run with Fernando Rodriguez’s kill.
“We work on things two hours every day, we have intense practices and tend to fall a part like that,” Ozment said. “It can be frustrating but we’re finally learning how to gel a little bit better as a team.
“We’re getting there. Good things are going to come.”
Lathrop was even closer to taking Game 2, holding a 24-18 advantage. East Union setter Jack Weaver, the star quarterback of the football team, helped lead the Lancers back, serving six straight points to give them the lead. He was also the server at the end of the first set.
“We call our setters the quarterback of the team and that’s what he does,” Ozment said. “He’s a good athlete and a great leader. He does a good job of really bringing the team together.”
Lathrop didn’t go away quietly.
After a sideout, Serrano delivered an ace to give the Spartans game point once again. Riggleman and Serrano later slugged back-to-back kills to put them up 28-27, but two straight hitting errors gave the advantage right back to East Union.
Parcells ended the excitement — and one of the match’s best rallies — with a kill.
“We just had to get the energy back and keep playing hard and have fun with it,” Parcells said.
The back-and-forth action continued into the third set, but East Union never trailed after Weaver piled up seven unanswered service points to give the home team a 15-7 lead. The Spartans struggled on serve receive in the final game, but despite the loss coach Marilou Treltas came away encouraged by her team’s effort. Lathrop has no upperclassmen on its roster, which has just two sophomores.
“I see a future with this team,” she said. “They’re young, they showed perseverance tonight but all they are learning right now are basics. They did not know anything in the beginning. The winning is going to come.”
For East Union the future may be now as it contends for a VOL title. Many seniors and multi-sport athletes lead the way, and with the likes of Matthew Pilkay, Agustin Casteneda, Grant Silva and Parcells on the front row they have the size and athleticism to compete.
“We’ve come a long ways,” Parcells said. “I remember our first day we were not good. We’ve gotten better and better each day, each practice and each match we play. We’ve made tons of improvement.”