In a battle of the top two Foothill League teams, West Ranch boys volleyball hosted Valencia Thursday evening.
Playing smart but aggressive, West Ranch (21-3 overall, 7-0 Foothill League) defeated Valencia in straight games, 25-11, 25-17, 28-26.
“Any match that we play is important for us to get better,” said West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson. “Obviously, you never want to look ahead, but you always have certain dates circled on your calendar so this is a match that we definitely have had in mind for a while and we had a game plan.”
Executing that game plan by attacking every ball and finding the holes in the defense, the Wildcats took the Vikings out of their comfort zone.
Outside hitter Andrew Benser served back-to-back aces, putting the Wildcats up in the first game, 6-3. Benser served four aces total in the first game.
“It’s funny because the last few practices and even last game my serve hadn’t been quite as on,” Benser said about his serving on the day. “I have been missing a lot and I still missed a lot this match, but the ones I got in were pretty tough. Overall, I’ve been working on it for about two years now so I got it down pretty good, I think.”
Pumped up by Benser’s aces, kills by Griffin Peters (who finished with nine kills) and Zack Drake (who finished with 11 kills) fueled the Wildcat offense to the 25-11 first game win.
In the second game, Valencia (15-9, 5-2) woke up behind Cameron Graves’ seven kills and defensively behind Jon Yamasaki’s seven digs.
“Graves will turn people’s heads,” said Valencia head coach Kevin Kornegay. “You will be watching in the gym and all of the sudden you will see him jump and hit. That guy gets over blocks.”
Seemingly going point-for-point, the Wildcats pulled ahead 16-14, rattling off nine of the last 12 points scored in the game, winning 25-17.
Playing from behind and down two games, Valencia threw all they had at West Ranch in the third game.
Captain Aaron Erskin took command of the Vikings’ offense by distributing eight assists (finishing with 19 on the night) in the game, with the majority going to Graves and Tyler Clyde.
Down 24-21 with match point for West Ranch, the Wildcats let off the gas pedal and allowed the Vikings to score four straight points, putting them ahead 25-24.
Calling a timeout, Johnson rallied his team and assured them of their gameplan.
“Since the first day of practice, I gave them the green light to be aggressive. I saw what we could do and saw that we were capable, so our ‘M.O.’ is going to be aggressive,” Johnson said.
Just like in the second game, the Wildcats were able to compose themselves and score four out of the last five points of the game, winning the third game 28-26 and sealing the 3-0 sweep for the Wildcats.
West Ranch’s Tyson Drake finished the night with a game-high 26 assists, two blocks and one ace.
Moving forward, West Ranch will play Newbury Park tomorrow in the Karch Kiraly Tournament. Valencia will keep it in the Foothill League and host Saugus April 24.
Saugus 3, Golden Valley 0
Saugus boys volleyball defeated Golden Valley in straight games Thursday. Gage Smith had five aces and 10 kills on the night with Luke Leonard handing out 27 assists for the Cents.
Defensively, Cameron Mudgett led with 14 digs and Dylan Spring was a close second with 11 digs and two blocks in the win over Golden Valley.
Hart 3, Canyon 1
The Indians won with game scores of 25-17, 25-13, 26-28 and 25-18.