V for Venema

Cal switches up Foothill

Besides having one of the coolest names in prep sports, California High School boys volleyball player Mike Venema (sounds like a DC comic super-villain, doesn’t it?) is pretty good. In fact, he’s the Grizzlies best player.

But it was the switch in the game plan by Grizzlies co-coach Mike Terrell that made the difference during a 17-25, 25-21, 15-13 win over Foothill at the Chico Tournament on April 14.

California became the first team in the area to beat the Falcons and they did it after watching Foothill lose to Woodcreek-Roseville earlier in the day.

“We just changed our rotation,” California co-coach Ray Montalvo said. “We put one of our middles (6-foot-4 Daniel Whitaker) in front of (Foothill’s Matt) Rice, and (Venema), our opposite (hitter), in the middle.”

The adjustment seemed to throw Foothill off, Montalvo said, especially Rice, an exceptional outside hitter.

“We really flustered him. I’ve never seen him play that off,” Montalvo said. “He was hitting a lot of balls out.”

With outside hitters Barry Conklin and Drew Crinnion stepping up, the Grizzlies (16-7, 4-2) caught the Falcons by surprise.

“We won the battle on the outside,” Montalvo said. “The serve-receive game was the same. It was a pretty good sideout match. It just kept going back and forth.”

The Grizzlies lost to Foothill 25-21, 25-22, 25-16 on March 27 in EBAL play.

Deer Valley, who lost a non-league match to Foothill in five games on March 14, beat Woodcreek to advance to the semifinals. The Wolverines were beat by eventual champs Valley Christian-San Jose in the semifinals.

Cal finished tied for fifth with their only losses coming to Valley Christian and Madera, the two teams who made the final.