The No. 5 seed Pierce men’s volleyball team saw their season end in a back-and-forth, heartbreaking loss (25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-13) at Santa Monica College on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the state championship.
The first set set the tone for the night. Santa Monica College attacked with outside hitters Andrew Dalmada and Dane Pieper, who led the team in kills during the regular season.
The Brahmas had their usual stars on display but had a boost of energy in the form of Jadrien Wiser, the only sophomore on the team, who put on a show filled with kills and blocks.
“As coach puts it, I am a firefly,” Wiser said. “I have all the energy in the world. I just try to spread it all around to my teammates.”
Although Wiser came up with huge plays in the opening set, they still narrowly dropped it, 25-23. The Brahmas were not finished.
In the second set, Pierce showed they weren’t going quietly. Brandon Oswald left his mark on the set, smashing 4 kills in a row and leading the Brahmas to a 25-21 set win.
The third set, however, was Pierce’s worst of the night. It seemed like all the energy they had put in led to tying the game.
The Brahmas couldn’t match the energy level of the Corsairs during the set. Pieper had an ace serve, making it 7-11 in the set. The lead was too much to overcome.
Santa Monica took the set 25-20, but Pierce had one more set to play.
The fourth set saw Pierce go up 4-0 as setter Bernardo Roese was the catalyst in the fourth set, setting up huge kills by Jadrien Wiser and Trenton Sellers, both of whom continued to get the crowd fired up as the game came down to the wire.
“A lot of people came out and supported us. It was a great match to watch. As a spectator, this was just fantastic volleyball to watch tonight,” head coach Lance Walker said.
Pierce took the fourth set 25-21, and in doing so, set up a deciding fifth set for a spot in the semifinals.
“The game was back and forth the whole time. In terms of momentum, we felt like we were in control,” outside hitter Trenton Sellers said.
The fifth set brought the most noise of the night, as both teams fed off each other’s mistakes.
Santa Monica had a 13-12 lead, but Wiser’s biggest kill of the night tied the game up at 13 apiece.
And just when it seemed like Pierce was going to build up the last bit of momentum, the Corsairs came up with an important block to make it 14-13.
A hitting error from Wiser made it a 15-13 game, and just like that, the season was over.
“I wouldn’t do anything else different,” Walker said. “We went out with our best players versus their best players, and things just didn’t go our way today.
Walker acknowledged the opponent, but praised his players despite being eliminated.
“Today, SMC was the better team by just one or two plays,” Walker said. “At the end of the game, Wiser was still our man. We knew we were going to set him. They did as well. He hit his best shot and just missed the hands by a couple of inches. But if we had a chance to do it again, I would run the same thing.”
The loss ends Pierce’s season at 13-6, as they fail to advance to the semifinals versus Orange Coast.
Walker had a take-home message that he wanted his players to understand.
“I think we had a great season. We are all winners in life, and that is the biggest thing for us,” Walker said. “We are fortunate to play a game, and that’s a beautiful thing. Wins and losses come and go, but these guys will remember each other for years to come, and I couldn’t be prouder as a coach.”
As Pierce’s season comes to an end, players are able to reflect on this year.
“I am proud of this team and glad that we fought hard,” Sellers said. “I think this was a great year for Pierce. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a really good program. I hope these guys under the starter’s wing can see this and be hungry for next year.”
The men’s volleyball semifinals will be on Thursday, April 27, at Ken Stanley Court. Matches are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. The championship game will be on Saturday, April 29, also at Ken Stanley Court, at 7 p.m.