The Road to NorCal
May 24, 2023
Coming off the 2022 season, the Scots were looking for redemption. After facing unforeseen challenges, the Scots were eliminated in the semi-finals of last year’s Central Coast Section (CCS) championship tournament in a 3-0 loss to Monta Vista High School.
“When it came to CCS, I sprained my wrist two days before and I was the primary hitter, so we lost in the semi-finals,” said junior pin hitter Sean Murphy.
After disappointment in last year’s playoffs, the team was ready to come back stronger and dominate, starting with their campaign in the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL).
“We were pretty sure we were going to win PAL and move on to CCS. We didn’t make it to NorCal last year, so that was a big thing, but mainly, we wanted to win CCS. That was the goal,” said junior middle Devin Engberg.
The Scots started the 2023 season at the Sanger Tournament at Sanger High School. At the tournament, the team struggled to keep up.
“At Sanger, there were some big teams it was probably the most competitive tournament we played so far,” Engberg said. “Honestly, it felt decent. We weren’t keeping up with those teams, but it felt in reach and I believe that next year we can compete with those teams which feels pretty good.”
A vital component of Carlmont’s competitiveness later in the season was the team’s rigorous conditioning routine.
“We haven’t had a day off since February just because it’s either been practice or games. When CCS and NorCal have been happening, we’ve had straight practices,” said junior setter Simon Hua.
As the league season started, the Scots found their footing and rose to an undefeated record in PAL. The Scots still faced challenges, however, when competing against private schools. Throughout the season, Carlmont suffered losses to Saint Francis, Harker, and Bellarmine College Preparatory.
“I think a lot of good players go to private schools and we’ve definitely seen that playing against like St. Francis and Bellarmine in the past, most private schools we play have had a couple of NCAA Division 1 commits. So we get super, super competitive, especially because we all grew up in the same area,” Hua said.
Carlmont’s position as a public high school has made this year a record-breaking season for not only the Scots, but also for the surrounding community. Carlmont became the first San Mateo County public high school to win a CCS championship in the tournament’s history,
“While we did have a perfect PAL season, we didn’t just say, ‘OK, we’ve got what we need, so let’s stay where we’re at right now,’ we kept pushing and pushing, so that eventually when we did reach CCS, we could defeat those opponents,” said junior opposite hitter Kyle Maher.
No matter how much they practiced, the Scots were not without their challenges heading into their playoff tournaments.
“Cyrus (Wong) had an ankle injury going into CCS. Devin (Engberg) had a back injury going into NorCal. I had a neck and back injury. Kevin (Tomita) had a really bad ankle injury after one of our CCS games,” said junior libero Will Won.
The Scots played in spite of their injuries and advanced far in CCS and NorCal.
“But we loaded up on Advil and just played through it,” Won said.
Uniquely, Carlmont’s varsity team is predominantly comprised of juniors. In fact, all of the starting lineup will be returning next season.
“They already have quite a bit of experience under their belt, and they just have this huge window of opportunity to excel within our league, within our sections, and within the state tournament, so looking forward to bigger and better tournaments this year and just trying to push their level of competition as far as I can,” said Carlmont head coach Daniel Nelson.
Instead of an all-state CIF tournament, CIF qualifies NorCal Division I as the equivalent of the state championship. Because there is not an official CIF all-state championship, the next step for the team is a place in next year’s Best of the West Invitational.
“We’re all juniors as well, so next year we’re gonna come back and do it again,” said junior outside hitter Eric Fadeyev.