Sharks boys volleyball’s season ends in CIF semifinals

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Malibu High boys volleyball coach Derek Saenz huddles with his team during the Sharks' recent game against Viewpoint. Photo by Devon Meyers/TMT

MHS’s loss to Samueli Academy came after team’s ‘best win over the season’ over Don Lugo in quarterfinals

The Malibu High boys volleyball team was on fire throughout their home matchup against the Don Lugo Conquistadors on May 2. 

Sharks freshman outside hitter Timur Podgore rocketed the volleyball over the net on a serve during the first set for an ace that gave Malibu a five-point advantage. 

Later in the set, Podgore rose above the net and smacked the ball so hard that the block attempt by two jumping Conquistadors only sent the ball into the net, giving Podgore a kill and the Sharks the first-set victory. 

Early in the second set, sophomore outside hitter Keegan Cross sent the ball flying past a group of Don Lugo players for an ace. 

The rest of the set and match was more of the same. Kills by Cross and Podgore, a block by freshman outside hitter Martin Kurial, a dig by sophomore Alex Galan, who plays multiple positions, and more in what ended up as a four-set win for the Sharks. 

Malibu head coach Derek Saenz said the 3-1 win in quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Boys Volleyball Division VI Championship was the team’s best win of the 2024 campaign. 

“They were the most physical team we had seen all year,” said Saenz of Don Lugo. “Beating them was a big confidence booster for us. It was a very tactical game for us. If we didn’t serve the right target, they were going to run an offense on us that we would have had a tough time with. It was the most disciplined we have been on the court. It was good environment.” 

The Sharks were beaten 3-0 in the semifinals on May 4 by the Samueli Academy Firewolves. The Firewolves defeated Riverside Poly the next game to win the Division VI title on May 10. 

Saenz said Samueli Academy is a talented team, but the game wasn’t out of reach for the Sharks, a team that only had two upperclassmen: senior setter Alex Jimenez and junior libero Nick Shafi. 

“There was a bunch of itty-bitty bad moments by everyone he said,” he said. “It’s never good to end your season on a loss. We are just super young. The other team was good and forced us into pressure situations where we played like a young team.”

Malibu’s playoff run began with a 3-2 win over Cate on April 27. Three days later, they defeated Eastside by the same score in the second round. Then, came the triumph over Don Lugo.

Saenz said Malibu struggled with how to be a mature team throughout the regular season, but then found their stride once the playoffs began.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how we snapped into focus and had some pretty good training,” he said.

The Sharks finished the season with a 23-13 overall record including a 10-0 record and first-place finish in the Citrus Coast League. The Sharks were a top seed in the playoffs.

Most of the players will take to the court with the Malibu Volleyball Club, which Saenz leads. The coach is excited to coach the players on the club team and the 2025 high school season. 

“They are super athletic and have lots of talent,” Saenz said. “They can pass, play defense, and serve. Everyone on the court and bench can contribute. We have a lot of depth.” 

Saenz is confident Malibu can make a successful postseason run next season. 

“Just remember we are going to be back,” he said he told his team. “The hardest part about losing matches is thinking about all the things you could have done better throughout the entire year.”