West Ranch boys volleyball rallies from deficit to beat Thousand Oaks

The West Ranch volleyball team celebrates their comeback win over Thousand Oaks at West Ranch High School. Tom Cruze/For The Signal

Seconds away from an opportunity to force a fifth set against Thousand Oaks, West Ranch boys volleyball’s Andrew Benser had a message for his team:

“I said, ‘Let’s take it five,’” Benser said. “That’s all I want to do. If we get to five, we’re winning in five and we‘re beating them in five.”

The senior outside hitter then proceeded to nail an authoritative kill that would capture a 25-22 win in that fourth set and would set up another win in the fifth that earned the Wildcats a 3-2 victory at home in Friday night.

The result was a far cry from the Cats’ sweep of Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks earlier in the week. West Ranch appeared flat in the first two games against the Lancers, which were lost 19-25 and 24-26, respectively.

“Swings we normally make in the practice we were missing,” said coach Brandon Johnson. “Serves we normally make in a practice we were missing by 10 feet. Things were just off. I don’t really have a reason why.”

West Ranch (2-0) bounced back in a marathon Game 3, rattling off six points to take a 15-12 lead in the middle of the game. A Griffin Peters kill pulled the Wildcats ahead 29-28 before taking a 30-28 win when a Lancers (1-1) hit went out of bounds.

Owen Birg proved to be Thousand Oaks’ greatest threat on offense and defense, as the 6-foot-5 freshman transitioned from setter to outside hitter to opposite with ease. He did some damage from the service line, too.

“He was everywhere for them, but we made sure we had coaching assignments, he told us what to do when we go, how to block and how to defend against him,” Benser said. “We definitely buckled down on him.”

Zack Drake of West Ranch (16) spikes the ball past Owen Birg (13) of Thousand Oaks during a volleyball match at West Ranch High School. Tom Cruze/For The Signal

The Cats had an underclassman of their own step up in the match, particularly in the fifth game. Zack Drake, a sophomore, executed two blocks, a kill and a tip in a final frame that ended 15-11.

On the evening, he had 14 kills, 13 digs and five blocks. His brother, Tyson, had 46 assists and 13 digs.

“I’m not entirely certain of their chemistry,” Johnson said of the siblings’ workflow. “All I know is that Zack Drake is a really good volleyball player … As far as Tyson goes, Tyson is easily one of the best setters in the state of California.”

West Ranch next travels to Simi Valley on Tuesday, March 6 and begins league play on March 20 against Hart at home.

Canyon 3, Highland 1

Dustin Deisbeck led the Cowboys with 11 kills. Connor Cooper followed with seven kills and Jason Andrada had 10 digs.

Canyon will play Antelope Valley today in the Antelope Valley High School Tournament.

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