When Robert Adamson first heard he was named the Rio Hondo League Boys’ Volleyball Most Valuable Player, he didn’t have much time or desire to bask in it.
The South Pasadena High captain was relayed the news from the school athletic director when he had bigger things on his plate. The Tigers were in the middle of their hunt for their first CIF Southern Section title in the Division III playoffs.
“I didn’t really think it was a big deal, I had my sight set on CIF and that was my No. 1 priority,” said Adamson, who’s finally had time to look back on the accomplishment since South Pas won the Division III crown and a CIF Southern California Regional Division II Championship match.
“It is definitely a neat, cool thing to receive and to remember my high school career making MVP,” he said, admitting it was something on his radar coming into the year. “I was kind of hoping I’d get it and that was just one of the first goals. First goal was winning league, MVP and after that was CIF and that was where my head was.”
More than just statistics, Adamson provided senior leadership — along with four other key Tigers that earned all-league first-team honors.
Senior setter David Barker, senior libero Nathan Lee, senior middle blocker Jason Qui and sophomore outside hitter Richard Yu earned first-team accolades.
San Marino was also represented on the first team by its own standout opposite Harrison Tung.
Adamson was the one who drew the highest praise from South Pasadena Coach Ben Diaz, who describe his opposite hitter as an “all-around” and “go-to player.” Given that, there really wasn’t any question who the Rio Hondo League’s top honor would go to after the Tigers dominated the league before CIF and finished the year with a 29-5, 8-0 in league record.
“He was just big,” Diaz said of Adamson. “Defensively he was big, he was my best blocker overall and he really did it all for us. … He was someone that we could depend on, especially from the right side. That was our biggest plus this year.”
While Adamson provided more than just stats, his numbers were still quite impressive. He had a team-high 123 kills, 80 successful serve receives, 73 digs, 28 blocks (15 solo, 13 assists) and 27 aces on the year.
Of course, the Tigers achieved their finest season with a stacked lineup.
“That was one advantage I think we had over every team we played,” Diaz said. “I had offense galore and I had players to put the ball away wherever I wanted.”
Running it all was Barker, who logged 199 assists, 58 digs, 23 blocks (13 solo, 10 assists), 23 aces and 10 kills en route to a first-team award this season.
“David was big because he knew the tempo of the offense that I wanted. I didn’t want anything slow, he was consistent and spread it out to all our players,” Diaz said. “He knew where to put it. In crunch time if we needed a kill, he knew where the put it.”
Setting everything up for Barker was Lee, who Diaz dubbed a “super athlete.” The libero had a team-high 202 successful serve receives and 150 digs on the year.
“The whole season I saw some good liberos but nobody as fast as Nathan,” said Diaz of the senior, who also had 13 aces on the year. “He got to every ball, not the most fundamental libero, but he had a lot of energy, leadership and that’s Nathan and that’s why I trusted him. He would do whatever it takes to get that ball up.”
Qui helped keep defenses honest this season with 42 kills, 33 blocks (16 solo, 17 assist) and 16 digs to keep up his second consecutive first-team nod.
“He has been with us since freshman year and he works really hard,” Adamson said of the team’s starting middle. “He is really athletic and really explosive. He does his job well and knows how to block and gets kills when needed.”
There were several wild-card newcomers to the Tigers this year, but none packed a greater punch than Yu, a transfer from China. Adamson said it took awhile to really click with the sophomore because of the language barrier and learning curve that comes with playing volleyball in a new country. Yu grew stronger and more confident and began to peak in time for CIF.
“He was definitely a very key part of our offense and of our team, we got really lucky that we got him this year,” Adamson said. “As the year went on you could see him, he’d get a big kill and be kind of quiet early in the season. Now he lets everyone know he got a kill.”
Tung emerged for the Titans this season. The senior picked up first-team recognition after averaging 11 kills a match and being passed over entirely on the 2012 all-league list.
“He played in all six rotations and was a great passer and server,” said San Marino Coach Scott Barton, also dubbing Tung the team’s most athletic player. “He’d get to balls that nobody else could get to in the back row. As a left-handed opposite, he was able to put the ball around and over blocks and hits the ball scary hard.”
A pair of Titans — Vincent Ma and Andrew Boon — picked up all-league second-team awards, along with the Tigers duo of Quinn Hutchings and Max Luck.
Boon put up a team-high 12 kills a match, while Ma averaged 10 kills a match for a San Marino (19-10, 3-5 in league) squad that took third in league and won a playoff match.
Hutchings, a senior middle blocker, and freshman outside hitter Luck (54 kills, 57 digs, 17 aces and six blocks) helped round out a deep South Pas group.