"We knew it would be tough," senior setter Evan Burden said. "But it
basically wasn't our day."
Senior outside hitter Charlie Alshuler, who, like Burden, had watched
from the bench when the Sea Kings defeated the Pirates in five games for
the 1998 CIF Division III title, said his team simply didn't click.
However, both Sea Kings, as well as Coach Steve Conti, credited Santa
Ynez, the best little volleyball dynasty most people have never heard of.
One particular target of their praise was 6-foot-8 junior Matt
McKinney, who bombed from the front row, hammered away from the back row,
blocked with bravado in the middle and also showed some quality
ball-control capabilities as well.
McKinney finished with 24 kills, eight blocks and the admiration of
all who witnessed one of the top juniors in the nation.
"Matt is one of the dominant players I've ever been associated with or
seen," said Santa Ynez Coach Chip Fenenga, who has sent a bus load of
talent on to Division I college success. Included among Fenenga's frame
of reference is former Stanford All-American and current national team
member Andy Witt, as well as NCAA Tournament MVP Mike Wall, who led BYU
to the Division I crown as a junior this season.
"He does the things (Witt and Wall) did as seniors and he's only a
junior. And the thing most people don't realize about him is how good a
passer he is."
McKinney, the Los Padres League MVP in both basketball and volleyball
this season, also conducted himself as a champion, during and after the
Santa Ynez also rode the talents of senior setter J.T. Gilmour, last
year's CIF Division III Player of the Year.
The 6-7 Gilmour shared setting chores with junior Nate Alker, so he
could also provide a net presence, as well as his passing skills.
Yet another key for the winners was the play of 6-3 junior Jeff Urton,
whose return from a late-season ankle injury solidified what Fenenga
called the strongest defensive team he has had in years.
Urton, a beach player who won an amateur two-man tournament in
Australia over the summer, played in the front row for the first time in