VAAS Vipers end Strong Season with loss to Rancho Dominguez in CIF City Section D3 Finals
Two seasons into his tenure as the head volleyball coach at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences (VAAS), Gabriel Islas has developed a program that is clearly on the rise. His Vipers competed in the LA City Section Division 3 finals on Saturday morning against the Rancho Dominguez Lobos in a tightly contested matchup. Though VAAS fell 3-1, this was a contest that could have seen the Vipers raising the trophy.
VAAS took the first set 25-22 before dropping the next 3, but they held an early 7-3 lead in the second set and were also up late 20-19. The third and fourth sets saw the Lobos build leads that VAAS chipped away at continuously even though they could not break through and win them. This was highlighted by the Vipers rallying from down 11-0 in the third set and getting within two points before ultimately dropping the set 25-20.
Senior Axel Angeles was one of the leaders for the Vipers with big plays throughout the match, including a big block that spurred their comeback from down three points midway through the first set. Senior Vincent Baradi supplied numerous big kills and blocks as well, one of which gave the Vipers a 17-14 lead in the second set. Sophomore Kyle Abadilla gave VAAS hope in the third set with the serve, scoring a big ace while the Vipers trimmed an early 11-0 deficit to 18-11. They would get as close as 21-19, but would not be able to complete the comeback.
In the fourth and final set, VAAS fell behind early, but battled to stay close throughout much of the set. They were within three points as late as 20-17, where a run could have put the Vipers in control, but unfortunately it never materialized and the Lobos closed out the set and the match 25-18. After the match, Islas reflected on the tight battle between the two teams, “I think they kept their composer… we have three seniors only, so I think that made a difference playing together. But I think in time we’ll be fine.”
Islas’ boys followed up a 2022 season where they finished second place in the Valley League at 8-2 with a near-perfect season that saw them claim a league title with a 9-1 record, going 23-5 overall. Of those five losses, four of them came against some of the top teams in the City Section, including Birmingham, Venice, and Robert F. Kennedy high schools. “We’re still building to be able to be able to keep with those upper schools,” Islas said when asked about the Vipers strong season, “Right now we’re D3… any D2 schools that we played this year we beat, we just want to get there and be consistent with it.”
Next season’s Vipers will look to improve on the accomplishments of the 2023 season, as only three members of the team are seniors who will be graduating this spring. Jalen Owens, Angeles, and Baradi will be handing off key roles to a team full of players that appear poised to take another step forward next spring. Islas finished his availability after the match praising his team and the work they’ve put in to grow in the 12 months since he took over the program, “I’m proud of my guys. They’re a great group, well disciplined. They execute everything we put in, I’m very proud of them.”