By John Philip Wyllie
Castle Park High is not going to win a South Bay League volleyball championship this season. In fact, if they reach .500 it would be a major accomplishment given the fact that their coach, Aaron Partch, was appointed at the last moment and they have played not a single match outside of those already on their league schedule.
Players in the wealthier surrounding areas often have the benefit of playing on high level, professionally coached club teams when their school team is not in season. By contrast, players with club experience are a rarity at Castle Park. Their opponents have the advantage of tuning up for the league schedule with weeks of competitive volleyball against teams outside of the South Bay. Despite the uneven playing field, the season has been a success in the eyes of Partch and his players. Two of his most dedicated have been seniors (see photo, right) Giovanni Soto and Jose Viramontes.
“They both work very hard. They are here early every day putting up the net and when practice is over they will often ask me if they can play longer. These guys play all the time at the beach or over at Parkway Gym. Volleyball is their main sport. They are hard workers and they compete hard every time,” Partch said.
“My mom and dad used to play volleyball in Mexico and they got me started here when I was little,” Soto said. “Later on, I became more interested in soccer and I played that here for a few years. When my soccer coach came over and coached volleyball last year I came over with him. Now, I like volleyball better,” says Soto who ably fills the role of outside hitter and leads the team in assists. “My parents still play it, so it is like a family sport.”
“I play football and did a little bit of wrestling,” Viramontes said. But as with Soto, volleyball has become his primary sport. “I started playing volleyball here three years ago and now I am a volleyball player that also plays football. I’ve played pretty much everywhere on the court, but this season I am the starting setter. The setter is supposed to be the most athletic player on the team. He should know how to hit, block, pass and of course, set. The setter has a big influence on each game. He is like the quarterback of the team.”
Unfortunately, despite all their hard work the team has not posted many W’s this season. No one however, has become discouraged. The team has recorded just three victories against five defeats, but the players have gained something more valuable than victories. They have gained a genuine love for the sport. Both Soto and Viramontes plan to extend their volleyball careers into college. Their team has shown steady progress over the course of the season. Partch and his players can see that they are closing the gap on their opposition.
“In our last game we played some competitive volleyball, so I think we are coming together. We have Hilltop and Montgomery still on our schedule and we hope to finish out strongly,” Partch said.