By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Undefeated Lathrop withstands El Camino for sweep in Division III final
El Camino-Lathrop boys volleyball
Lathrop's Christian Green (8), Christopher Millan (9), Diego Sanchez-Castaneda (4), Jerico Santillan (5), Arman John (7) and Tory Sumbler (1) celebrate the win-clinching point in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship Saturday at Natomas High. GARY JENSEN/

SACRAMENTO — No. 1 Lathrop may have swept second-seeded El Camino 25-21, 31-29, 28-26 on Saturday to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III boys volleyball championship, but the Eagles of Sacramento gave the Spartans all they could handle and then some at Natomas High School.

After a nondescript first match in which Lathrop (30-0) led the entire way, the second game was an extended slugfest – 19 ties, 10 lead changes and five match points. With El Camino (18-5) serving at match point 29-28, the Spartans’ Arman John (11 kills, six digs, two aces) came up with back-to-back kills, giving Lathrop match point at 30-29.

The Eagles got the ball to their power hitter Sanalia Batiratu (14 kills) and he wound up to try and extend the game. The Spartans’ Jerico Santillan (five kills, two digs, two blocks) had something to say about that, however, and blasted a picture-perfect block, slamming the ball to the floor for the thrilling 31-29 win.

“On that last play of the second set that score was way above extra point,” Santillan said. “I had an adrenaline rush when I saw the ball coming over the net I just put my hands up there and shut it down.”

The rough-and-tumble play was not over. In the third set following 17 ties, six lead changes and three match points, Christian Green (12 kills, three aces) ended the match with a kill for the 28-26 third-game win.

In the second set, Green had four kills down the stretch to help keep Lathrop in the game.  

“It’s not about how you start, but how you finish,” Green said. “We always start the best we can and if we need to we will increase the intensity and finish hard.

“That final kill was energizing. If I’m being honest it felt like winning the NBA finals. It was crazy. I have never felt this much energy and this much hype around boys volleyball. We are like an hour away and having all these fans come out was crazy.”

Tory Sumbler (kill, block, ace) dished out 33 assists for the Spartans.

“It’s all about the first contact,” Sumbler said. “Our passers did a really good job which made my job easier.

“I just delivered the balls to the hitters and they put it away.”.

Lathrop’s Diego Sanchez-Castaneda hustled for 19 digs.

“I really don’t like to talk about the numbers,” Sanchez-Castaneda said. “It’s all about doing what I can do to help the team.”

Christopher Millan added five kills and three digs for the Spartans.

While Lathrop remains undefeated, Spartans coach Toa Fa’ali’i realizes just how close this match was.

“It was an interesting match,” Fa’ali’i said. “I may have underestimated El Camino a little, and they made a little push, but I believe in what we do in practice and I believe in my boys and we were able to stop that push.”

“I was nervous as heck in the second set, but I did not want my boys to see me getting nervous because that’s the last thing they need to see.”

The Section championship is the first in school history across all team sports. The Spartans will look to add to their historic 2022 campaign this week in the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Division III Regional Championships. Seeded fourth, they’ll host No. 5 Moreau Catholic of Hayward (21-10) on Tuesday. The match will begin at 6 p.m.