A late-season surge helped define a successful year for the La Cañada High boys’ volleyball, which received five honors on the All-Rio Hondo League awards list.
The quad-league champion Spartans earned three first-team selections after the squad finished 12-16, earned the league’s third and final playoff berth following a four-way tie for the league title, upset crosstown rival Flintridge Prep in the postseason and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
La Cañada’s Chiron Burl, James Graf and Nolan Sheow were named to the league’s first team, while Jack Weirick was tabbed a second-teamer and Sang Min Lee was an honorable mention.
Overall, a first season for Spartans coach Rebecca Sanchez was a wild one with plenty of highs.
“Honestly, this was the most rewarding and best experience I’ve had coaching,” Sanchez said, “especially because this was my first year branching out, doing my own thing and running my own program. The kids made it easy, too. They wanted to learn, they were passionate about volleyball and it really showed.”
Burl, a senior outside hitter, averaged 2.2 kills and 1.8 digs per set and tallied a season-high 12 kills twice, including in a 3-1 victory over league rival San Marino on April 19.
“I’ve actually known Chiron since he was 4 or 5 years old and I never thought I would coach him when he got older,” Sanchez said. “Just seeing that transformation when he was so young into this responsible young man I think was very rewarding. To see him come so far and take first team all-league, I’m so proud of him.”
As a senior outside hitter, Graf averaged a team-leading 2.8 kills and 1.9 digs per set and turned in his best effort of the 2018 campaign with a season-high 16 kills in the Spartans’ 3-2 victory over Temple City on April 3.
“I’m really proud of the way he’s progressed throughout the season,” Sanchez said of Graf. “He was always a leader from the very beginning. This year he really got the chance to shine, so I’m very proud of him.”
If there was a team MVP, Sanchez contends it was Sheow, a senior setter who the La Cañada coach feels was the league’s top player.
Sheow averaged a team-leading 7.2 assists per set along with 1.5 digs per set. Sheow also led the Spartans with 30 blocks and 26 aces.
“He just fell short of [league] MVP and I definitely think that he should have got MVP as well,” Sanchez said. “That kid was born a leader. He’s been on varsity since he was a freshman and he helped coach the team last year. He stepped up this year into becoming the key player and he did a phenomenal job and, honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Weirick, a senior opposite, nabbed a league second-team award after averaging 2.1 kills per set and finishing with 29 blocks.
Min Lee, a junior libero, was an honorable mention after leading the Spartans with 2.8 digs per set.
“The bumps in the road were to be expected early in the season because the guys had to work through what was a very difficult 2017 season (5-17 record),” Sanchez said. “I knew the guys had it in them and that they would do something special this year.”