With the possibility of finishing the season with a winning percentage of .500 or better and the chance of making it into the Division 4 playoffs as an at-large bid, Canyon boys volleyball had a lot on the line on Senior Night against Golden Valley on Thursday.
Winning the first game, Canyon came out of the gates playing loose, team volleyball, led by seniors Shane Kelley, Ryan Sloan, Aaron Berko, Fabian Ruiz and Troy Bietsch, who powered the Cowboys to a four-game win: 25-18, 25-21, 26-28, 25-21.
“We didn’t let them back in the game,” said Canyon head coach Jeff Cody. “Sometimes it’s been our tendency to make an error after they made one and that’s kind of been how our season has gone. But we didn’t do that today. If they made a mistake we took care of business.”
Canyon (14-13 overall, 3-6 in Foothill League) came in with something to prove after being swept by the Grizzlies earlier in the season and it showed.
Going down 2-0 early, the Cowboys pushed forward to take their first lead of the match 4-3 and after the Grizzlies got within one point at 10-9 with a Zane Keidel kill, the Cowboys pulled away going on a seven-point run capped by a Kelley ace, forcing a Golden Valley timeout down 17-9.
The Cowboys went onto win the first game and grabbed the lead.
With the first game under their belt and with seconds left before the beginning of the second game, Kelley started to clap his hands to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” getting the Canyon faithful to clap along with him and shaking the stands.
“Our team bounces off of energy,” Kelley said. “As soon as the crowd gets into it then we get into it and the better we play. So the crowd helps us out more than anything.”
The chants were short-lived, however, as Golden Valley (8-12-1, 2-7) punched Canyon in the mouth and built an early 8-2 lead, forcing Cody to call an early timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Cowboys answered with big blocks by Kelley and Ruiz along with great sets by Sloan, setting up juniors Connor Cooper and Blake Mahaffey for crucial kills to help Canyon claw its way back to tie the game at 16-16.
“It’s so easy playing with these guys,” Sloan said. “They make it really easy for me and my job. I’m able to put it up there and they put it down.”
The Cowboys took their first lead of the game up 17-16 and never relinquished the lead, taking a two-game lead on a service error by the Grizzlies.
Golden Valley showed its will and fight, not giving up down in games 2-0, as Max Grifman and Caleb Watson used their length and kills to stay level with Canyon.
Grizzlies’ Tanner Gee hit 2-of-3 serves for aces and forced Canyon to call a timeout down 15-12.
Canyon took the lead at 20-18, but the Grizzlies quickly tied it at 22-22 scoring four of the next six points.
Trading point-for-point, both teams made hitting and serving errors down the stretch with Canyon falling in extra points 28-26.
“Choices,” said Golden Valley coach Sam Hand. “They started choosing their attack. They started kind of deliberately passing the ball, intentional touches. They just decided to play the game they wanted to play instead of playing the game they had to play. It was just a matter of playing more mindful and less instinctively.”
Feeling the momentum swinging in the Grizzlies favor, the Cowboys made a statement right out of the gates in the fourth game to go up 7-2.
Golden Valley battled back to get within two points, down 17-15, but two back-to-back Cooper kills pushed the lead back to four points.
A heads up drop shot by Cooper made it 23-19 Canyon. Berko laid down a monster kill and two points later, Bietsch put down the game and match-sealing kill in four games.
“I’m just happy that my team could get the win, it’s not about my success it’s about my team, “ Bietsch said. “My setter Ryan Sloan hit me with a good set, I just killed it. I’m just happy that the team has a chance to go to playoffs now.”
Both teams have one more Foothill League game left in the regular season as Golden Valley hosts Valencia while Canyon travels to first-place West Ranch on Tuesday. Both games begin at 5:30 p.m.
Valencia 3, Saugus 0
Valencia (16-15 overall, 6-2 in Foothill League) defeated Saugus: 25-16, 25-18, 25-22
Dorian Ellis led the team in kills (11) and blocks (seven) and Jacob Knudsen had seven kills and one block and Tyler Clyde finished with six kills, two blocks and an ace.
The Vikings play in the Redondo Varsity Tournament today against San Clemente at 3:30 p.m. and play Sage Creek and Torrance at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.
Saugus (7-12, 2-7) plays its final regular season match on Tuesday at Hart at 5:15 p.m.
West Ranch 3, Hart 0
Winning in straight sets: 25-15, 25-11, 25-19, West Ranch (22-7, 8-0) clinched at least a share of the Foothill League title.
Alex Miller and Zack Drake each recorded nine kills.
Johnny Buchanan dished out 31 assists and added three blocks. Spencer Birchall finished with eight digs.
West Ranch has two regular season games left on the schedule as they host Canyon on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m and finish out the season against Valencia on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.