Patience, timing and four years of hard work paid dividends for Jimmy Killian this season.
The standout senior setter, who passed Los Angeles Loyola to its second consecutive Southern Section Division I title, is The Times' boys' volleyball player of the year.
He steered an impressive collection of offensive weapons to a 22-2 record and the Cubs' eighth championship overall, the most in section history.
In perhaps his best matches of the year, Killian led sweeps of Long Beach Wilson in the playoff quarterfinals and Fountain Valley in the semifinals.
The victory over Wilson took only 50 minutes, yet Killian dished out 33 assists. Against Fountain Valley, he came up with a variety of assists, as well as spectacular saves, dumps, blocks and key kills.
"He made it all happen," said Wilson's Susan Pescar, one of several coaches to nominate Killian for player of the year. "Without him they would be nowhere near as good. [He's a] great setter who really understands the game and puts the ball right on the money."
Perhaps the best testimony to Killian's abilities is the fact that although he has been a setter since his preteen years in club ball, this was his only full season in that position for Loyola.
As a freshman, he played in only a few mop-up situations, and the next year, he split time with junior Brian Beckwith, now at Hawaii.
Last year, Killian sat out a month early in the season because of a foot injury that forced Coach Michael Boehle to alter the lineup. When Killian finally returned, Beckwith was fully entrenched as the Cubs' setter.
Killian moved to outside hitter, then finished the season at opposite when C.J. Schellenberg was lost for the remainder of the year because of a stress fracture.
"Jimmy played outside for us, and he did a tremendous job," Boehle said. "He'd never hit before for all the amount of volleyball he had played. He'd never been an outside, but it shows he has athleticism."
He took some ribbing from his teammates.
"Him hitting was a funny thing," said middle blocker Matt Hillier, who has played on the same club team as Killian for four years.
"I always give him a hard time about hitting," said Hillier, who will attend UC Santa Barbara while Killian goes to USC. "Because he tells me I can't set, I tell him he can't hit, so he shouldn't bother."
Nevertheless, Killian hit well enough to earn second-team All-Southern Section honors for his role in the Cubs' 20-0 record last year.
"As a setter, you always want the chance to hit the ball," Killian said. "I had an amazing setter in Beckwith. He put the ball up there like butter."
Beckwith went on to earn The Times' and the Southern Section's player of the year honors.
Killian said playing a new position gave him a different insight when he became Loyola's full-time setter this season.
"It was rather humbling to have to hit and block," he said. "It made me a more aggressive player. As a setter, you want to get the ball to the player so he can put it down. It's another thing to be set."
Were the Cubs a more dominant team with Beckwith in control than with Killian this year?
"I don't want to compare this year to last," Killian said. "This was a new year, a new team, but with similar goals and ambitions. This year, I just had to maintain [my hitters'] confidence. I basically had to put the ball in the air, and the hitters put it away."
Hillier said Killian has "a great grasp of the game."
"Jimmy has an incredible presence wherever he goes, on the beach or on the court," he said.