In the battle for sole possession of first place in the Foothill League, West Ranch boys volleyball and Hart duked it out at Hart on Tuesday.
West Ranch had its hands full going toe-to-toe and point-for-point with Hart in the first game, taking an early 5-3 lead after a Spencer Birchall ace.
Hart, however, didn’t back down rattling off four straight points to take a 10-7 advantage forcing a West Ranch time out.
Trading points throughout the game, West Ranch’s Ian Hodge delivered back-to-back aces giving the Wildcats a three-point advantage, swinging the momentum in the road team’s favor.
The Wildcats put the game away after a huge Colin Murphree block, winning a close first game and the following two games to sweep the Indians: 29-27, 25-20, 25-19.
“I talked to the boys about being relentless and keeping the aggression up and more than anything else finishing,” said West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson. “And that is what we did in this match. Especially in the first set, it was a back and forth, back and forth, we were able to finish.
We learned and we got better since our last match. What we did today is what I’ve been preaching to my team about being balanced.”
The Indians didn’t let the first game setback dictate the rest of the match, jumping out a 6-4 lead early in the second with thunderous kills by Gavin Leising.
Leising had 12 kills on the night.
Putting his body on the line for West Ranch (15-6 overall, 4-0 in Foothill League), Zack Drake came up with a big dig that resulted in a Johnny Buchanan kill to keep Wildcats close.
“He definitely brings a lot more energy on the court,” Drake said. “Whether he’s tasting through the net or making those big plays it definitely helps out and controls the tempo of the game.”
Buchanan recorded 37 assists, three kills and five digs.
With Drake serving, West Ranch mounted a three-point comeback giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game up 15-14.
Buchanan followed Drake’s lead, spurring West Ranch on a similar three-point run with his serving skills to keep Hart (11-6, 3-1) at bay, down three.
Hart never rebounded from the deficit and fell after a net error and another Drake kill to end the second game.
Falling behind early in the third game at 5-2, Hart never held a lead and only got within one point of West Ranch thanks to gutsy kills by Tristin Clint and Drake forcing Hart to call a timeout down 8-5.
“We set the tone really early and it was a really good showing for us,” Clint said. “Other Foothill teams need to know that we are out here to play and we are not going to back down. It was a good all-around team win.”
Out of the timeout, Drake delivered his second ace of the game to give the Wildcat a four-point advantage.
Drake finished the game with 13 kills, 12 digs and the two aces.
West Ranch pulled away late sealing the third game and the match with Murphree’s second solo block of the game.
“I wasn’t even thinking of getting a block on a ball,” Murphree said. “I’ve been waiting four years to block Gavin like that. I honestly, still cannot believe that I did that. It’s insane.”
Hart’s Sawyer Tengberg dished out 17 assists and recorded six kills and Alex Schmidt finished with six kills.
“I’m bummed we kind of let the game slip from our hands early on and we weren’t able to recover,” said Hart head coach Loy Mueller. “But I’m really excited to see how league is going to play out being how close we all are in this league.
The ball can bounce any way because it’s a long season, so thankfully we got six more games to go.”
Both teams are on the road on Thursday as Hart heads to face Saugus at 5:15 p.m. and West Ranch travels to Canyon at 5:30 p.m.