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Foothill League boys volleyball preview: part 1

All six Foothill League boys volleyball teams will be in action on Thursday as league play ramps up.

The defending league champions West Ranch have gotten off to a strong start this season in preleague games, going 8-3 with six of those wins coming by way of sweeps against Heritage Christian, Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.

The Wildcats return multiple players from last year’s title team including: Zack Drake, Tristin Clint and Daniel Bisla, but their standards haven’t changed.

“I think the program has put a good standard for itself that a Foothill League title should be a goal every year,” said West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson. “We graduated 11 players last year, and I like the expression that some teams use that we are not rebuilding, we are retooling. We had a lot of players last year that didn’t get a lot of court time that are seeing court time this year and are very eager to prove their worth.”

Juniors Drake and Johnny Buchanan have stepped into bigger roles on the team this year as the Wildcats primary attacker and setter.

“This year has become basically the mantel that has been passed on to from one Drake to another,” Johnson said. “Zack Drake was a role player last year and this year he has stepped into the role of our go-to attack and is flourishing. Johnny Buchanan has had to step into Tyson Drake’s footsteps in the setter position and is doing a fantastic job leading the offense and the team.

“We are really looking to those two to be leaders to the team and the fact that they are both juniors they are able to build an identity being leaders on the team for sure.”

Newcomers Spencer Birchall and Neiko Pittman will look to turn some heads at libero and opposite hitter.

West Ranch goes on the road to take on Saugus at 5:30 p.m.

Similarly, Hart is also 8-3 heading into league play and is currently on a three-game winning streak after taking down Notre Dame, Harvard-Westlake and Crescenta Valley.

After a third-place finish in 2018, the Indians are loaded with seniors including: Jake Meyers, Alex Schmidt and Darin Dietz at libero and juniors Sawyer Tengberg and Gavin Leising.

“They bring a lot of maturity and knowledge of the court and of the sport,” said Hart head coach Loy Mueller. “A lot of those guys were sophomores when they were on varsity so they are still pretty young and have a great experience on the court from last year.”

Newcomers senior Esra Moore and freshman Ian Duncan look to make an impact on this year’s team.

“Esra is an all-around type player,” Mueller said. “He has the knowledge to be a setter, opposite and also step into roles that I need him to and Ian fills in some defensive skill that we need to have, but also provides some offense out of the back row.

“We are excited and eager to get going.”

The Indians will draw Golden Valley tonight at Hart at 5:30 p.m.

After a turbulent 2018, Canyon has turned things around this season winning its eighth match of the year on Monday in a sweep of The Palmdale Aerospace Academy.

The Cowboys won 11 total matches all of last year.

Seniors Ryan Sloan, Shane Kelley, Blake Mahaffey and Fabian Ruiz are the glue that gels the team together.

Junior Connor Cooper and senior Aaron Berko provide high-intensity and high-motors to form an effective Cowboys attack.

“This is the first year that we don’t have a go-to guy, we have a lot of key players,” said Canyon head coach Jeff Cody. “We spread the ball out a lot. Every day is different, but we really are just a team, which is a good team because we can trust so many people to do a good job. “

The Cowboys will travel to Valencia to take on the Vikings at 5:30 p.m

Part Two of the boys volleyball preview will be published on Friday.

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