Venice High boys volleyball coach called Monday’s match against Hamilton a "must-win" if his team had any intention of improving its playoff position, or even make the postseason at all.
It proved to be just the motivation the Gondoliers needed to turn in one of their most impressive performances of the season. They dominated the host Yankees from the first serve, winning 25-19, 25-22, 25-7 to close the regular season on a high note.
“We are still working on a lot of things, but to end the season like this is just great," Hunt said. "We really controlled our game today and cut down on mistakes. We can still cut down on them more, but we'll have time to work on that."
The Gondoliers (11-17-2 overall, 6-6 in league) established their dominance on serve right away, getting two of their 13 aces early to take a 9-3 lead in the first game. Venice stretched the lead to 16-8 before host Hamilton narrowed its deficit to 20-17.
As it would do the whole match, Venice got easy points on its serve, winning five of the last seven points to close out the first set.
“Our goal was to keep the ball on our side and win points on our serve, and we did a great job of that today," Hunt said. "It’s imperative to play well in transition, and today we scrambled to get a lot of good points.”
The second set was back and forth, with Hamilton constantly nipping on Venice’s heels. Senior co-captain served the Gondoliers to a 8-3 lead, but the Yankees pulled to within 10-8. Venice extended its lead back to 15-10, only to have Hamilton to go on a four-point run to creep within a point at 15-14.
The set stayed close, but the Gondoliers took a 22-20 lead, then won three of the next five points to take a commanding two sets to none lead. The key to winning the set was the Gondoliers' height advantage, as they won several points on easy blocks.
“We’re always working on our blocking," Hunt said. "Sometimes we get too wide and leave our middles on an island, but today we did a much better job of blocking the whole net.”
Venice kicked it into full gear in the third set, not allowing Hamilton to steal the momentum away. Senior co-captain served back-to-back aces as the Gondoliers raced to a 6-1 lead. Later, Chen went on a serving run that propelled his team to a 20-4 lead. Venice closed out the sweep eight points later.
Despite Venice having a sub-.500 record overall and finishing fourth out of seven teams in the Western League, Hunt thinks that his squad can make some noise in the playoffs.
“We won’t have a shot at the top seven, so I’m guessing we will be in the 8-12 range," he said. "I don’t think anyone wants to see us in the first round because we’ve come a long way this season and we could be dangerous.”
The Gondoliers will know their fate Tuesday. The playoff seeding meeting is at 4:30 p.m. at Venice High.