Some years ago, a volleyball publication ran a story about the sport’s appeal as an after-work activity for urban factory workers in the early decades of the 20th century.
Fast forward to the present, and high school boys volleyball is a hit-and-miss proposition throughout Northern California. Yeah, some large-enrollment schools – - especially well-heeled ones – - can dominate their leagues. Some players here and there even get college scholarships. The Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League, however, is more a throwback to volleyball’s blue-collar roots. While the ACCAL might not produce many – - if any – - Division I college players, many of the games will please the average fan.
Encinal High School’s island derby with crosstown archrival Alameda at the Hornets Nest on March 20 serves as a case in point. Encinal won 25-12, 25-20, 25-12; and true, Alameda was short four players, including a starting setter and hitter, who sat out for undisclosed reasons. But that’s not to take away from Encinal’s effort. There was flow. There was style. There was synergy. There was enthusiasm. And there was a distinct feel for the game among the experienced Jets, who have 10 seniors on their roster. Oh, and the Jets’ Hawaiian floral-print trunks add a sense of fashion, too.
Volleyball is a second sport for a lot of guys. Often, teams reflect this reality. Encinal middle hitter Jason Silsdorf offers a refreshing exception. An All-ACCAL basketball player as Encinal’s center in the winter, Silsdorf looks very much at ease in the middle of volleyball coach Chris Bautista’s frontcourt. The senior is not a bad server, either. Could it be that Silsdorf actually is a volleyball player who doubles as a basketball player?
Volleyball, of course, is a team game, and the Jets are not only about one player. Fact is, frontline play is an overall team strength. Aaron Wang (a match-high 11 kills against Alameda) and Ryan Perdiguerra would be welcome additions to most any team. And Kamaka Baculpo brings an added presence off the bench.
As for setting, Steve North gave 16 assists against the Hornets. And libero Mervin Arquero was a strong presence in the back row, as were Melvin Arquero and Francisco Cano.
Encinal’s primary team color is blue. Fittingly, the Jets are a throwback to blue-collar volleyball. And if one match tells a story, such a level and style of play are pretty darn good. Division I prospects or not, it’s volleyball well worth seeing.