Foothill boys v-ball roundup: Cents perform under pressure; West Ranch, Valencia win too

Saugus' Stephen Jones (11) tips the ball over the net between Hart's Alex Schmidt (left) and Stephen Catabona, right, during a volleyball game at Saugus on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Anyone watching Saugus High’s 3-0 home win over Hart on Wednesday night learned two things.

One, Hart High is much improved.

Two, Saugus High is much better than the Indians when the game is on the line.

The Centurions improved to 3-1 in Foothill League play with game wins of 26-24, 25-19 and 25-23.

Saugus coach Barry Nua said it was all about the Cents’ demeanor.

“It’s an even-keeled team,” he said. “We try to have them not get emotionally too up or definitely not too down. That was our message there. … I told the two team captains before we walked on the floor to keep the team on an even keel.”

Dawson Preston and Gage Smith led Saugus (9-7 overall) with eight kills each, while Steven Stanley had 26 assists.

It was Matt Denkinger (seven kills), though, who made the biggest mark on the end of the second and third games.

Denkinger had two kills and an ace for three of Saugus’ final four points in Game 2.

His two kills late in Game 3 were Saugus’ 23rd and 24th points.

Preston ended the match with a powerful kill.

Hart’s Alex Schmidt (21) tips the ball over the net past Saugus’ Dawson Preston (45) during a volleyball game at Saugus on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“We do better under pressure,” Denkinger said, later adding, “When the moment’s there, we just want to take it.”

Ethan Wellins led Hart (5-5, 1-3) with 10 kills, while Wyatt Bates had eight and Dylan Lange had seven.

The Indians dropped to 1-3 in league, but they’ve shown marked improvement from last year’s 0-10 season.

Hart’s win over Canyon on March 28 was its first Foothill win since 2015.

“We are doing better than anyone expected us to,” said Hart coach Jeannie Brauninger. “We are really just trying to change how people see us (so that they) see us as a viable threat and not just, ‘Oh, it’s Hart volleyball.’”

Isn’t the perception already changing?

“It’s creeping in,” Brauninger said. “I don’t think (Saugus) expected us to take them to 26-24. I don’t think they expected those scores. They expected us to roll over when things got tough, and we didn’t and we’re not going to.”

West Ranch 3, Canyon 1

The Wildcats improved to 4-0 in Foothill League play at Canyon on Wednesday behind Michael Flores’ 19 kills. Tyson Drake added 38 assists.

Game scores were 25-15, 20-25, 25-20 and 25-20.

Canyon dropped to 3-9 overall and 1-2 in league.

Canyon hosts Valencia today, while West Ranch will host Saugus.

Valencia 3, Golden Valley 0

David Chun (11 kills) and Andrew Johnson (nine kills) led the Vikings to a home sweep Wednesday night by scores of 27-25, 25-12 and 25-19.

Valencia is 8-12 overall and 3-1 in league. Golden Valley is 13-8-1 and 0-4.

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