A year after getting passed over for a CIF Southern Section playoff spot, the Peninsula boys volleyball team is using that reminder as motivation during its current Division 3 playoff run.
Following its regular-season finale loss to rival Palos Verdes, junior Clarke Godbold noted the team would maintain a positive outlook knowing a playoff berth was possible, but not definite.
"There's always a possibility we can make an at-large bid," Godbold said following the Panthers April 23 loss to PV. "This match was do-or-die, and we're not expecting it."
Six days later, Peninsula found out its well-deserved fate, at 11 a.m. on April 29.
"I remember sitting in my office with our principal (Brett Kuykendall), and 11 a.m. hit," coach Kevin Williams said. "I could hear a lot of yelling and screaming (outside), and it was a lot of my players."
Peninsula (21-13) has turned what most thought was improbable into an eye-opening run, reeling off three consecutive sweeps (Foothill Tech, Roosevelt, Foothill) heading into Wednesday night's semifinal showdown with Kennedy of La Palma.
"We were definitely overlooked last year, and we're extremely happy that we have a chance to win not only a ring for our seniors this year, but also last year," Godbold said. "We've been playing at a high-level buy serving, passing and ultimately being confident on the court. That's the key to our success."
Williams pinpointed the Panthers tough Bay League schedule as something that prepared the squad for the playoffs.
"Our league has really set us up. I don't think there is a harder league (in the area)," Williams said. "Three teams in our league were in the top 10 (in CIF-SS Division 1), and all three finished in the top 16 (Division 1/2). They definitely helped us get prepared."
That experience will be on display against 36-win Kennedy, who fell in the division 3 championship in 2018. Kennedy won the CIF-SS Division 4 title in 2017.
"They're really big, just from looking at their roster," Williams said. "But at the end of the day, we're going to treat it just like any game. We have to be consistent knowing they're going to try and stop out main two, and we just want to play well and with intensity."
Peninsula has utilized its big two, Godbold and Pepperdine-bound Akin Akinwumi, to its benefit this season.
"Clarke isn't showing as much nerves (in the playoffs,) and he's leading by his actions on the court," Williams said. "Akin is just a freak of nature - the Kevin Durant of volleyball. He's made me extremely proud because of how he's matured, and the gap between him as freshman to now is so massive."
But it's not just Godbold and Akinwumi who have sparked the Panthers, as Williams has adjusted the starting lineup as needed.
"We've made some adjustments to our lineup, and we're a little more well-rounded and harder to deal with," Williams said. "We have two extremely great players, but this is a team sport. Now, we're a good team."
Williams' wife delivered twin boys last Friday, and even he isn't missing what this Panther team is doing.
"This is my first run at something this deep, and I'm just living in the moment," Williams said. "We'd get this far when I coached the Peninsula girls basketball team, and I'm taking off that experience. But we're trying to do the best we can, and we're remembering that hurt from last year, and it's driving us and motivating us."
Godbold sees Williams' commitment as something that drives the team even more.
"It shows how much he cares not only for this program, but us individually," Godbold said. "We all want to win a run, but he wants it the most, which is exactly what you want in a coach."