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By Zach Cavanagh

When it came to the history of boys volleyball at Capistrano Valley Christian, there wasn’t much to speak of.

There were some scattered league championships and playoff appearances, but when it came to the small private schools of San Juan Capistrano, the Eagles were outclassed by CIF-SS finals and championships of league and city rivals Saddleback Valley Christian and St. Margaret’s.

“Were” and “was,” but no longer.

In dominant fashion, top-seeded Capistrano Valley Christian swept away Orange, 25-15, 25-13, 25-19, to claim its first CIF-SS boys volleyball championship in front of a packed and raucous home gym in the Division 6 final on Saturday, June 5 at CVCS.

Capistrano Valley Christian was without its top player, UC San Diego-bound setter Gabe Dyer, for each of the last two rounds, and the Eagles were unsure if they’d have the services junior outside-hitter Kai Taylor. However, the Eagles had still been a force through the playoffs and had only dropped one set.

Even with Dyer and Taylor coming in for Saturday’s final at only 50 or 60%, Capistrano Valley Christian had built a foundation of this revitalized program to carry them through the day.

“They’re pretty resilient, and they were bought in,” CVC coach Ryan Van Rensselaer said. “We were preaching all year that if any one of these guys are out, you’re in. You’re only as strong as your weakest guy. When we played some high-level matches, I put them in, and we would fail, but they were learning.”

Van Rensselaer recharged and boosted this CVC program it a championship level with the title-winning pedigree he and a few Eagles players had earned down the street at the former Saddleback Valley Christian.

Van Rensselaer was the head coach at SVC, now Fairmont San Juan Capistrano, from 2010 to 2020 and won five CIF-SS championships, including four straight from 2013-16. In that run of four straight, SVC won back-to-back titles in the last division (Division 5) and two more consecutive titles in the next division up (Division 4). SVC kept climbing the ladder until back-to-back Division 2 title game appearances in 2018 and 2019 with a championship in 2019.

“When I came over here, my kids were enrolled here before I took the job,” Van Rensselaer said, “and I was looking for ways to contribute to the school. They asked if I wanted to coach the boys, and I originally said no. I don’t want to do this again after doing it for 10 years over (at SVC). Long story short, I ended up saying yes, I think I can keep doing this.”

From that 2019 SVC championship team, Dyer, junior setter Max Stegelvik and junior outside-hitter Andrew Sheveland transferred to Capistrano Valley Christian and played on this 2021 CVC title team.

“The dynamic of this team,” Van Rensselaer said, “there’s three or four guys coming from my old school. They could come in here with an ego, but there was none of it. The character dynamic was just a family. They really bought in.”

The buy in was necessary, because beyond trying to bring up this Capistrano Valley Christian program, Van Rensselaer had to tackle the task in the world of the pandemic.

“It’s the same idea as what the scriptures say, ‘no man is promised tomorrow. Today is all you have,’” Van Rensselaer said. “Let’s focus on what we can control, your attitude, showing up, hard work. Kudos to them for continuing to press forward and act as if we were going to have a season.”

Capistrano Valley Christian went from outdoors and distanced plyometric workouts to having its season pushed back again from a potential December start to a March start to a CIF-SS championship.

“I told them, this is not normal adversity for high school kids,” Van Rensselaer said. “This is a notch in your belt for life. You’re learning some valuable stuff right now.”

That stuff can now be valued at its weight in gold, as in the gold of a CIF-SS championship plaque.

The Capistrano Valley Christian boys volleyball program is on the map with the opportunity to create another San Juan Capistrano small-school powerhouse.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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