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Junior captain Ryan Shickling and the San Juan Hills boys volleyball team won the program’s first league title this season. Photo by Sandi Gentry
Junior captain Ryan Shickling and the San Juan Hills boys volleyball team won the program’s first league title this season. Photo by Sandi Gentry

The timeline for the San Juan Hills boys volleyball program over the last three seasons reads like this.

2011: The Stallions compile a 4-10 overall record and finish last in the Sea View League standings.

: San Juan Hills has its best season in school history to date under new head coach Justin Deblasio. The Stallions go 19-12 on the season, including a 5-3 record in league, good enough for a second-place finish and the program’s first ever CIF playoff berth. They win one Division 2 playoff game but lose in the second round.

2013: After being promoted to Division 1, first-year head coach Matt Prosser replaces Deblasio and guides the team to the school’s first boys volleyball league title. The team goes 6-2 in league, sharing the Sea View League hardware with Aliso Niguel. They lose in the first round of the playoffs to highly touted Dana Hills.

The trajectory for the Stallions has been steady and upward in recent years. There have been an influx of coaches but the team has seen steady improvement.

A first-round matchup against Dana Hills on May 7 was not the luckiest of draws for the Stallions, who were looking to go deeper into the playoffs after advancing to the second round last year. They lost in three sets 25-12, 25-13, 25-17. Junior Garret Austin had a team-high eight kills in the loss.

Their placement into Division 1 was a double edged sword for the Stallions as it was both an affirmation of their rising competitiveness and a tricky obstacle to overcome. The match against Dana Hills, the four-time defending South Coast League champions, was a good example of this.

The Stallions had a good enough season to qualify but were matched against a perennial Division 1 powerhouse that is made up mainly of year-round club players. The budding Stallions, who have a handful of club players, were the victims of their own success as well as a bit of bad luck in the CIF-SS scheduling offices.

“Winning the league was one of the goals the guys had set for themselves. Achieving that goal was nice,” Stallions head coach Matt Prosser said. “The fact as co-league champs we had to go on the road to go play another no. 2 seed is a bit of a letdown. I’m proud of the way the guys played, it was very competitive, very hostile. But the guys didn’t back down they played as hard as they could.”

Nevertheless the Stallions have several pieces returning for next year that have the potential to keep their trajectory on the rise.

Four starting seniors will be leaving after graduation but three of the team’s main offensive players will be entering into their senior years. Austin, outside hitter and team captain Ryan Schickling and setter-opposite hybrid Logan Zotovich will all be back in 2014.

The trio led the team in kills this season and each saw considerable playing time.

Prosser has also increased the number of athletes in the volleyball program to just over 40, which could include future players that will make a mark on the already growing list of accomplishments on the volleyball court at San Juan Hills.

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