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Boys volleyball gets co-championship, ends playoff bid

The Claremont High School boys varsity volleyball team ended their brief CIF playoff run when they were clawed by the South Pasadena Tigers on Thursday, May 10. The final score for the second-round playoff match, was 3-1.

After the Wolfpack won the first game 19-25, the Tigers “came out with a lot of momentum” in round 2, and kept it going for the rest of the competition, according to CHS head volleyball coach Bernie Wendling.

CHS played well, coach Wendling said. South Pasadena played better.

“They told us, ‘That’s the best game we played all year,’” he said.

Part of the problem may have been the fact that the opposing team got wise to the skills of senior Stephen Zetterberg, who has been the Wolfpack’s kill leader throughout the season. 

“Basically we just moved our blocking toward [Zetterberg], focused on him,” said South Pasadena player Thomas Adamson in May 11 Pasadena Star-News article, explaining how the team rallied after losing the first match.  SOur coach said ‘focus on 11, block No. 11. We’ll leave the opposite open and focus on No. 11.S'

Thursday’s loss smarts a little, because CHS volleyball typically makes it further in the playoffs. “We felt we deserved to go into the semi-finals with a shot at the finals,” Coach Wendling said.

Despite the loss, the Wolfpack will be celebrating achievements like their league championship at their May 21 end-of-year banquet. The team is taking away some unforgettable memories, most notably their win against John Burroughs High School on Tuesday, May 1, when the Pack beat the Indians with a score of 3-1 to clinch a Pacific League co-championship.

“That was a Kodak moment,” said Coach Wendling. “The kids were running around, jumping up and down and crying. Those are the moments I live for.”

It’s a good thing he finds his job rewarding, because for Coach Wendling, volleyball is a year-round affair. As soon as the CHS school year ends, he’ll start coaching an intensive summer league for the girls at Ayala High School.

Coach Wendling gets just 3 weeks off in August before starting the fall season at the helm of the Ayala girls varsity volleyball team. After their play ends in November, he’ll head back to CHS for the spring boys varsity volleyball season.

Coach Wendling spends much of the time when he’s on break following volleyball, often traveling to catch college games, especially those featuring alms from CHS or Ayala.

“I’m probably a little volleyball obsessed, but that’s okay,” he said.

There’s a lot of talent on the Wolfpack, but only one player is going to college play. The team’s libero, Dakota Meador, has been signed to play Division 1 volleyball at Hannibal-Lagrange University in Missouri.

One of the reasons more boys aren’t going on to play volleyball at the college level is the dearth of men’s college volleyball teams, Coach Wendling said. There are only 45 colleges in the country with men’s volleyball teams, while there are 350 women’s teams in Division 1 alone.

The disparity is partly a result of attempts to juggle the large amount of resources spent on huge sports like football with Title 9 concerns that women have equal sports opportunities.

Coach Wendling is all for equality of play, but wishes it didn’t come at the expense of opportunities for athletes like his graduating varsity boys.

He suggests that schools consider cheerleading another girls’ sport and offer some scholarships accordingly, allowing schools to put resources into another smaller boys sport like volleyball.

“It’s sad on the guys side to tell [a successful player], ‘If you were a girl, you’d have 15 scholarships,’” he said. “It’s wrong what we’re doing in volleyball. It’s a great sport. Let the men play. Give them the opportunity.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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