2018 Foothill League boys volleyball preview

West Ranch's Tyson Drake (22) celebrates a kill with teammate Derek Seo (4) during a playoff volleyball game against Palos Verdes at West Ranch last season. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Diego Marquez

Signal Staff Writer

With spring just around the corner, the quest for the top volleyball team begins in the Foothill League.

Starting the season off on a seven-game win streak, West Ranch (9-2), looks poised to begin the Foothill League season on a strong note.

With only one returning starter from last year’s team, senior Tyson Drake and the Wildcats are trying to create a new culture at West Ranch.

Characterizing his team as “aggressive”, first-year head coach Brandon Johnson is molding his team to play how he wants.

“I want our team to play together,” said Johnson. “Aggressive, but together.”

Seniors Griffin Peters and Andrew Benser, the Wildcats’ most potent scorers and kill leaders, boost the Wildcats offense.

They are both averaging three or more kills per game and have a combined 195 kills on the year.

Defensively, thanks in large part to sophomore standout Zack Drake, Tyson’s younger brother, who switched to from setter to outside hitter. The Wildcats have only dropped eight games in 11 games to begin the season.

The Cats open up league play at home against the Hart Indians tonight.

Indians’ Coach Jeannie Brauninger has led Hart to a 5-5-1 record on the season, dropping one out of the last three matches played.

Returning starter and last year’s Second Team All-Foothill League selection, Wyatt Bates, can help turn things around heading into league play.

Bates led Hart with 24 aces and 107 digs last year during his junior campaign.

With returning Foothill League first-teamer Gage Smith, the Centurions look to end up towards the top of the standings, as they have compiled a 7-7 record for head coach Barry Nua.

Smith looks to be one of the team’s leaders in his junior year, posting 139 kills on a .294 hitting percentage, while collecting 47 digs and nine blocks last season for Saugus.

Valencia (3-6) has stumbled out of the gates, only managing three wins in ten games this season.

Connor Ruffner, who made last year’s All-Foothill first team, along with fellow senior Jackson Young hope to ramp up the offensive tenacity as they lead the team in kills with 60 and 50, respectively.

Defensively, fellow senior Cameron Graves commands the defense with Ruffner and Young as all three lead the team in blocks.

Already surpassing last year’s win total (5), Canyon (6-5) has turned things around with senior returning starters, Dustin Deisbeck and Esquivel Ramirez, providing the offensive spark the Cowboys need.

Newcomers Connor Cooper, Shane Kelly and Aaron Berko have all moved up from JV or freshmen teams and look like they will factor in to be key contributors for this Cowboy squad.

“We are fortunate enough to have players that have moved up from our freshmen or JV teams and have played well for us so far,” said Canyon Coach Jeff Cody.

Berko and Cooper provide some much-needed outside hitting, while Kelley is one of the most talented passers for the Cowboys.

Lastly, Golden Valley looks to rebound from a regrettable first half of the season as they have squeaked out three wins in seven games.

The Grizzlies open up league play against West Ranch Thursday.

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