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They looked nothing like the dozen men who moments earlier had finished engaging in 36 minutes of the most fervent, inspired basketball that has been seen in these parts for quite some time.
Instead, the San Marino High School boys’ basketball team was drained — physically and emotionally — after losing a heartbreaking CIF Division 4AA second-round playoff game to Elsinore, 74-72 in overtime, on Saturday night.
The game will long be remembered, chiefly for the effort expended by the outmanned, outsized Titans. But also due to the fact that San Marino held several double-digit leads during the contest and even held a five-point advantage during the four-minute overtime period.

The Titans showed the Rio Hondo League that they clearly belong in the championship conversation, but South Pasadena had the last word Friday night in a game that was so thrilling it could have justified the CIF’s decision to hold the sport at all. The Titans return home tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. where the squad will celebrate their seniors before playing another crucial game. 

Photo courtesy Daryl Chan
Kyle Yu shocked the local volleyball community last spring when, as a freshman, he took over as the Titans’ setter and led the squad to a spot in the CIF playoffs.

He has sprouted a full four inches since last season, so when San Marino High School sophomore Kyle Yu trots onto the volleyball court this campaign, it’s a much different experience. The Titans’ setter was 5-foot-6 when the 2019 season came to an end but he finds himself a lot closer to the top of the net this year, having grown to 5-10.
Yu is an anomaly of sorts. A basketball player by trade, he didn’t begin playing volleyball until the 6th grade at Huntington Middle School, suiting up for the Foxes’ varsity squad all three years, mostly as a libero, or defensive specialist. In the 8th grade, he decided to switch to setter, the volleyball equivalent of the quarterback, who strives to receive a teammate’s pass and distribute it to a “hitter.” It’s a task he accomplishes quite well.
Last year, Yu quickly became the starting setter on the Titan varsity squad and led San Marino to a 6-2 record in the Rio Hondo League and a spot in the CIF playoffs — quite an achievement for a freshman.
But he does have a pedigree in the sport.
“My parents played, and I like to practice with them at home,” Yu said, referring to his mother, Kimi Tamura, and his father, Ted Yu.
Kyle Yu is also a rarity in that he doesn’t play club volleyball, having elected instead to continue his basketball career at SMHS.
“I like the intensity and the excitement of volleyball,” he said. “It is a fast-paced sport that relies on good teamwork and communication to be successful.”
Early on, Yu earned the respect of a very valuable group: his teammates.
“Frankly, I was surprised last year when coach Tony [Chou] decided to make Kyle the setter,” said Carver Weirick, a senior outside hitter and two-year co-captain of the Titan varsity. “He had mostly played libero in middle school, so I didn’t know how it was going to work out. But he has really grown into the position.
“Kai [Barra, a senior co-captain] and I talk about it all the time, how well he is doing for his age and how competitive he is. Kyle is very good at adjusting his game to what the hitters need, and that is a great skill. He is also very coachable.”
The Titans will get a good look at the 2020 version of Yu when San Marino opens the season on Thursday, Feb. 27, as Bishop Amat comes calling for a nonleague game. First serve is set for 3:30 p.m.

Freshman Kyle Yu has been super-solid for the Titans.

Volleyball matches that extend to the maximum of five sets typically favor the more experienced team, but San Marino High School’s boys’ varsity squad is setting that axiom back a few decades.

With two starters who until this year have never played a single point of varsity volleyball—one of whom until this spring has never played the game at all—the Titans have defeated La Cañada and South Pasadena in back-to-back matches to grab an early lead in the Rio Hondo League.

San Marino went up north to shock the Spartans by final scores of 25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 18-25 and 15-13. After a quick start, the Titans were just plain pedestrian in sets three and four before rekindling the fires for the fifth and deciding set. 

Senior Kai Barra delivered the match-winning kill for the Titans, one of the team-high fifteen that he recorded for the match. Junior Carver Weirick added eleven kills and senior middle blocker Eric Fu added nine while contributing five solo blocks. 

Senior Michael Baldocchi, a career basketball player who until February had never spiked a volleyball, again imposed his will at the net, recording ten blocks and altering the Spartan attack in the key fifth set. 

Christofer Duenas is a solid server. Photos by Daryl Chan

Freshman setter Kyle Yu continued to impress, distributing the ball among a wide array of hitters that kept La Cañada’s defense off-beat. Christofer Duenas had an excellent game on defense and at the serving line and Seth Matzumoto was also a force while serving. 

Joshua Hom and Mitchell Cootauco also added punch to the lineup as the Titans claimed the win.

San Marino was back on the road two days later, visiting rival South Pasadena. In what was a more back-and-forth affair, the Titans won by scores of 25-16, 20-25, 16-25, 26-24 and 15-3 in front of a raucous pro-Tiger audience. 

Weirick led the attack with 16 kills, followed by Barra (9), Fu (7) and Cootauco, who came off the bench to collect five. Most impressive was the one-sided fifth-set score of 15-3, which is rare in rally scoring. Weirick’s hitting and Baldocchi’s blocking had South Pasadena reeling from the outset as the Titans roared to a 7-2 advantage and never looked back. Yu was again poised in the face of a road crowd and Fu recorded three blocks in the third set alone as San Marino improved to 2-0 in league action.

The Titans had matches on Wednesday, March 27 and Thursday, March 28 against Gabrielino and Temple City, respectively. Please see sanmarinotribune.com for results.