Moorpark Men’s Volleyball defeats Santa Barbara 3-1 in their first home game since 2020

Michael+Stahl+jumps+up+for+a+kill+against+the+Santa+Barbara+Vaqueros+on+Wednesday%2C+April+21%2C+2021+at+Moorpark+College%2C+CA.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Michael Stahl jumps up for a kill against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at Moorpark College, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Danny Stipanovich

A pandemic and 412 days later, the Moorpark men’s volleyball team made their long-awaited return to Raider Pavilion with masks and no spectators. The Raiders broke their hiatus with a 3-1 scrimmage victory over the Santa Barbara Vaqueros 23-25, 25-18, 25-20 and 25-23.

“We’re all just so happy to be out here. Every game is just a blessing because there is so many teams that have opted out. The fact that we can get in here, get after it and actually have a season; shortened as it may be. We’ve been working so hard and looking forward to this,” Moorpark freshman Nate Tennant said.

In February when the Ventura County Community College District announced that spring sports would return to play, men’s volleyball was the only sport that could not come back because it is played indoors and COVID-19 numbers kept Ventura County in the red tier.

As cases dropped and the county moved into the orange tier, Head Coach Aaron Hedland and the Moorpark Athletics team fought tooth and nail to get Moorpark back in the gym.

“The reason that we’re able to be in this gym is because our coach, Aaron Hedland, worked so hard to get us here. He has sacrificed hours upon hours asking the board, reasking, finding teams that are getting in the gym and petitioning over and over again to try and get us back,” Tennant said. “We owe it all to him.”

Moorpark Raiders Connor Johnson (left) and Grant Youngs (right) hop up to stop
Moorpark Raiders Connor Johnson (left) and Grant Youngs (right) hop up to create a block against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros during the home game at Moorpark College on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Raiders went through a shortened and completely different offseason that involved practicing outdoors on grass as little as once a week and training with different types of balls.

Hedland described the challenges that came with the unusual offseason.

“It’s like a baseball team practicing with softballs,” Hedland said. “We’re very grateful to be where we’re at, but we’re not where we would want to be at because we missed out on an offseason.”

The rust quickly showed on both sides of the net at the start of the match-up.

Santa Barbara’s first point came off a Moorpark service error. The teams went back and forth and tied it up at 11, but four service errors down the stretch for the Raider’s kept them struggling to keep up.

With the Vaqueros on game point, it was none other than another Moorpark service error that ended the set and gave Santa Barbara its only win of the night.

Moorpark Raider Connor Johnson
Moorpark Raider Connor Johnson hits the ball past the Santa Barbara Vaqueros block during the home game at Moorpark College on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Hedland knew coming into the game that his team would struggle to toss the ball.

“Serving is a monkey on our back all season and we’re trying to get better at it and try to get more consistent with it,” Hedland said.

Tennant explained the mental game behind serving.

“It’s a lot more complex part of the game than we think. It’s the one part of volleyball where the team’s not involved, it’s only you,” Tennant said.

The second set did not start any cleaner than the first one. At a 4-3 Raider lead, three of Moorpark’s points were off of Vaquero service errors, while two of Santa Barbara’s points were off Moorpark service errors.

Down 5-6, a Michael Stahl kill, followed by a Tennant and Liam Navarro block that led to a kill, sparked a 7-0 run to put Moorpark ahead 13-7. The Raiders dominated the net, coming up with eight points off blocks to win 25-18.

Stahl had four kills in the second set alone and credited his success to his teammates.

“Nate Tennant was setting, my teammates were just passing awesomely, the serves were in and everything was going perfect,” Stahl said.

Moorpark Raider Connor Burroughs jumps up too stop
Moorpark Raider Connor Burroughs jumps up to block a point during the home game against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at Moorpark College, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

At the start of the third set, both teams returned to their woes behind the serving line. Three quick Moorpark service errors kept the game tied at 3-3. Down 4-5 off a Santa Barbara service ace, back to back Evan Trancoso kills led a 6-0 Raider run that kept them ahead on the way to a 25-20 victory.

In the fourth quarter, the Raiders were down 21-23 late. A Kenneth Schwartz assist to Burroughs followed by a huge Dakota Jordan-Deuter block at the net led to a Santa Barbara fault that tied the game at 23. A Stahl kill put the Raiders up one and Jaxon Rust and Jordan-Deuter ended the game with a block point.

“Even though it doesn’t count for anything, the time is priceless in terms of player development and the team’s development,” Hedland said. “Our guys are still proud of beating everybody we beat, and still upset losing to anybody we lose too.”

Moorpark’s next game is at Irvine Valley on April 28 at 6 p.m.