PEN Volleyball Sets New Standard
• Peninsula High boys’ volleyball team wins first CIF title after 2-6 Bay League season.
Just as the school year wraps up on the Hill, Peninsula High’s boys’ varsity volleyball team made a historic push that has changed the legacy of Panthers’ volleyball.
No Peninsula boys’ volleyball team has ever won a CIF title, much less made a run all the way to the state finals. Despite a 2-6 record in Bay League, the Panthers received a bid from CIF that allowed them to continue their season.
On their journey toward winning the first CIF title for Peninsula in CIF SS Division 3, the Panthers swept Foothill Tech, Roosevelt, Foothill and Kennedy high schools to move on to the next round.
The Panthers faced Quartz Hill at a neutral location, Cerritos College, to play for the title of CIF champions. They won their first two sets before losing the third set, only to come back and end the game in the fourth, officially making them the first team in Peninsula history to win in the CIF finals.
Perhaps what made this team special and motivated them to succeed this year was because the team barely missed making the playoffs last year. Most of last year’s players were back this year.
Said senior Ethan Colin, school Valedictorian, CIF Southern Section Boys Athlete of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, said, “This team and this season were so special because we were able to prove ourselves after a shocking playoff snub last year. We were able to go so far this year simply because our mindset was that we can beat any team, no matter who we’re up against.
“One thing I will never forget about my teammates this year is how much everyone wanted to win. Sometimes we would butt heads and disagree, but it came from passion for the game,” Colin said.
After their spectacular CIF SS win, the Panthers went on to compete in the state playoffs. They swept Windward High School in three sets at home on May 14, then played Mount Carmel two days later on May 16. They won that match in four sets, winning their first two sets, losing the third, and winning the match in the fourth. Now their sights were on the state finals.
The team practiced for hours every day, sacrificing time for friends, family and studying. Then went on to play for the SoCal Division 2 state title against the Oak Park High School Eagles in an away game at Oak Park on Saturday, May 18.
The Panthers lost the first set 25-22 before rallying to win the second set 25-23. Despite the Panthers’ best efforts, the Eagles outlasted them in the final two sets, winning 25-17 and 25-19.
A proud crowd stood and cheered despite the defeat. The cheers lasted long past the announcement for the Panthers, and the student section chanted endlessly for their classmates that had proven so much and rewritten history.
Team captains Akin Akinwumi and Clarke Godbold led the team throughout the season.
Said Godbold, “This team was super special because we didn’t start the year super strong. We stuck together, and a lot of guys got much better and we started playing much better as a team, which allowed us to go farther than we thought we could. I thought we had each others backs and shared jokes on and off the court. The best games were the ones in which we kept it lighthearted on the court because we played much better.”
Akinwumi is a senior who has committed to playing Division 1 volleyball at Pepperdine University. Godbold, a junior, has committed to play Division 1 volleyball at Long Beach State University, a highly ranked school in men’s volleyball.
Varsity coach Kevin Williams and head coach Kurt Barcenilla led the team this year. Williams is known to be extremely supportive and a loud advocate for the boys on his team and is much appreciated not just by his own players but by students and administration as well.
“I’m so lucky to coach such a great group of kids,” said Williams. “That’s what made the season so special, all their hard work and dedication. Proof is in the pudding. If you put all that hard work and dedication into something, good things tend to happen.”
The team finished 25-14 overall, but that record does not do justice to their success. They went above and beyond all expectations, beyond what anyone asked them to do. And for their hard work and dedication to the sport and to each other they have earned a spot in the history books.