By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Moments after the medal ceremony, Palisades High boys volleyball coach Carlos Gray gathered his team in a circle and expressed his appreciation to players and parents for making this such a special season. Yes, even he could find little to critique after the Dolphins displayed near flawless execution on their way to repeating as Gold Division champions at the Redondo Classic.
Palisades won 14 straight sets in the two-day tournament, capped by a 25-19, 25-15 semifinal sweep of Mira Costa and an equally-impressive 25-18, 25-18 sweep of host Redondo Union in the final.
“We helped our case [for a high seed at regionals] a lot today,” Gray said. “I’d put this group up against anyone, anywhere. We can’t take anything for granted from this point forward.”
Junior setter/hitter Miles Partain was named Most Valuable Player while Akhil Tangutur, Justin Howard and Marcus Partain made the All-Tournament team for the Dolphins (38-2), who wrapped up Western League play on Monday with a three-set sweep at Hamilton.
Palisades played in four of the best tournaments in the Southland and proved it is one of the top teams in the state. The Dolphins reached the finals of the Best in the West Tournament, won the Dos Pueblos Invitational and finished third at the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions—a result that motivated them to play better in Redondo Beach.
One of the team’s most versatile players is senior Mason Mallory. He has seen action at opposite, outside hitter and middle blocker and is up for the challenge.
“It’s a mentality, a state of mind, just knowing what I have to do,” he said. “The [Tournament of Champions] was a wake-up call for a lot of us. It taught us if we let teams play with us, they can.”
Vance Mallory, a libero/outside hitter, is looking foward to joining his brother at Endicott College, a Division III program in Massachusetts, in the fall.
“We missed eight serves in the first set but we were still up 23-18,” he said. “It shows how good we could be if we cut down on the errors.”
Marcus Partain, a senior committed to UCLA, said a change in strategy at the TOC the week before was key: “I was always setting but we changed so we have a hitter in the front row on the right side at all times. We’re hitting our stride now.”
Palisades is seeded No. 1 in the City Open Division playoffs and hosts a quarterfinal match next Thursday night at 7.