Duo nets league accolades on the court

Matt Faber and Sean Mintie will probably be best be remembered for delivering La Cañada High its first CIF Southern Section Division boys' basketball championship in 19 years.

However, the pair teamed up again after the team's championship run to form a feared force in the middle for the Spartans boys' volleyball team this past season.

Both Faber and Mintie were honored for their play with first- and second-team All-Rio Hondo League honors, respectively.

La Cañada Coach David Woo knows both of the senior middle blockers served as pillars for the Spartans in what turned out to be an underwhelming season.

"They were the most important players on my team. Without those two, the season would have been worse," said Woo, who saw his team go 9-18 and 2-6 in the Rio Hondo League, tying it for the worst league record with San Marino.

Faber and Mintie were bright spots for the Spartans, and each brought a different skill set. Faber led the team in kills and Mintie set a team high in blocks. The two put up impressive numbers even though they played nearly half the games of their teammates, missing the first half of the season while competing in the basketball playoffs.

"With Matt's athletic ability, he was a natural," Woo said. "If he would have played all four years, I think he could play in college, if he wanted to. His strength was his hitting and he was a quick jumper, so he thrived in a quick offense."

At first, Faber relied on his athleticism, Woo said. After awhile, he started learning how to do the little things like hitting around the block and targeting certain spots on the floor. He finished the season with a team-high 148 kills and a second-best 29 blocks.

"I had success in basketball, and volleyball was really my fun sport, so I just wanted to have fun out there," Faber said. "I can jump pretty high, so I just went out there and worked as hard as I could and tried to help the team."

If there were any questions on how Faber would fare on the volleyball court, he answered them in his first match of the season against cross-town rival Flintridge Prep. Faber ended up collecting a team-high 14 kills, which led the Spartans to an upset victory over the Rebels in five games, 23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 10-25, 16-14. He didn't even know what a kill was coming into the game.

"It didn't really register to me if I was picking it up quickly," said Faber, who played on the Spartans' tennis team previously. "It was the guys on my team who were shocked and telling me how well I was doing, and I was like, 'Really, I am doing well?' I was just having fun out there and I guess I just happened to be good at it."

Mintie did a little bit of everything for La Cañada, leading the team in blocks, with 35, while also collecting 96 kills, 15 digs and 11 aces.

"Sean was a little bit smarter this year," Woo said. "He could really put the ball down and find open spots. They both brought the majority of our offense."

While Woo was thankful to have two players at the skill level of Faber and Mintie, he thinks it ultimately hurt his team because no one else followed their example. Other teams would zero in on the middle blockers because no other teammates consistently answered the call.

"In the beginning of the season, everyone on the team was saying, 'Wait until Matt and Sean get here, then we'll be great,'" Woo said. "Once they returned, I think the team relied on them too much. They expected to take off when they arrived, but everyone else still had to do their job."

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