Sharks boys volleyball begin playoffs as top seed

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The Malibu High boys volleyball team is shown in action during its first-round CIF playoff match against Cate on April 27. The Sharks advanced into the second round after a 10-0 Citrus Coast League record. Photo by Devon Meyers/TMT

The squad began the postseason with a 21-12 record, including a 10-0 record in the Citrus Coast League

The Malibu High boys volleyball team opened the playoffs with a nail-biting victory on its home floor on April 27. 

The Sharks, a No. 1 seed, defeated the visiting Cate Rams 3-2 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI Boys Volleyball Championship.

Malibu head coach Derek Sanez said the match was close. The coach noted that sophomores Alex Galan and Taj Menteer had stellar performances. 

Galan’s hot serving streak in the second set gave Malibu winning momentum after they lost the second set. Menteer starred on defense late in the game, Saenz noted. 

“He shut down their big kid so many times,” the coach recalled. 

Axel Jimenez, the team’s lone senior, said Malibu worked hard for the victory.

“The practices leading up to the game were spent watching film of Cate and practicing against the type of team they are,” he said. “It was a hard fought win.” 

The victory advanced Malibu to a second-round match against the Eastside Lions on Tuesday. The winner of that game moved on to a quarterfinal matchup on May 2. The semifinals are on May 4, with the championship game scheduled for May 11. 

The Sharks entered the playoffs on the heels of a stellar season. The squad began the postseason with a 21-12 record, including a 10-0 record in the Citrus Coast League. Malibu swept all of their league opponents and won many matches by 10 to 15 points. In fact, they never lost a set. Malibu had a five-game winning streak at press time. 

Saenz, in his sixth season coaching the Sharks, stated that this year’s group was his most successful team in the regular season.

“Last year, we started the season 0-10,” he remembered. “We finished the regular season with over 20 wins. In the prior 10 seasons before I got hired, they won like 26 matches in 10 years.”

Jimenez, the team MVP and an All-Citrus Coast League performer a season ago, said the Sharks’ roster — dominated by sophomores — is full of talented volleyball players.

“Our key to winning is getting in the proper mindset for the playoffs,” he said. “Being able to handle the pressure of our season being on the line needs to be something we become used to.” 

Saenz said MHS has championship aspirations.

“We didn’t set too many performance goals in terms of the skill level we want to be at,” he said. “It’s more of, we just have to grow up. I focus on level and mentality. Yes, we want to win CIF, but we are going to focus on the mentality that will make us a championship team.”

At a practice in February, Saenz showed the team video of college volleyball teams that upset highly rated teams in the regular season but failed to win a title in the postseason. 

“You can be good enough to knock off the team that wins the national championship,” Saenz said. “How does one team win that match at the beginning of the year, but doesn’t make the playoffs and other team wins the whole thing? That has a lot to do with culture. We want to have winning culture — develop maturity in how they present themselves, goal-setting. We want the best possible version of each individual.” 

Jimenez has been the top Shark on the court this season also. Sophomore Keegan Cross and freshman libero Lucas Galan, both great athletes, have also starred. 

Saenz said Malibu has high hopes that rise above the volleyball net. 

“We always expect greatness out of each other,” he said. “If we are saying, we want to win a championship. We have to know that we are a team with people that can do great things.”