Entering a Foothill League matchup between Canyon and West Ranch boys volleyball at West Ranch both teams had different intentions in mind on Tuesday.
Canyon wanted to finish the regular season out strong and come away with a statement win against West Ranch to make a strong case as to why they should get an at-large bid for the impending playoffs.
West Ranch wanted to clinch its fourth straight Foothill League title with the hopes of keeping their undefeated league streak alive on Senior Night.
Coming away with the sweep, West Ranch defeated Canyon: 25-18, 25-20, 31-29.
“More than anything else, I’m proud of my seniors,” said West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson. “We only have five this year, but they have made a huge impact on the program. I don’t care about pretty wins or ugly wins, I care about winning. I just want to end up winning and the fact that we were able to come away with the win at the end is the most important thing.”
Honoring five seniors, West Ranch (23-7 overall, 9-0 in Foothill League) had an extra form of motivation as they wanted to send seniors Daniel Bisla, Brett Borden, Tristin Clint, Max Lin and Colin Murphree out with a win in the final home game of their Wildcats’ careers.
In a first game full of errors by both teams, West Ranch quickly grabbed a three-point lead thanks to Johnny Buchanan’s masterful serves to open the match.
After three straight Spencer Birchall aces that pushed the lead to 13-7, West Ranch was able to hold a big enough lead to take the first game with ease.
The second game started similar to the first with Buchanan having a hand in the first couple points, but Canyon (14-14, 3-7) fought back to take its first lead of the game after a serving error and a rotation violation by West Ranch, along with a Nicholas Cecchetto ace at 8-7.
The Wildcats quickly turned the tide with back-to-back kills from Lin and Clint to retake the lead, forcing Canyon head coach Jeff Cody to take a timeout down 15-11.
From that point on, West Ranch kept its composure while Canyon committed a flurry of errors and West Ranch took the second game after back-to-back kills by Bisla and Lin.
Clint finished with a team-high 11 kills, five digs and four aces while Lin chipped in with three kills of his own. Bisla recorded five kills, four blocks and two aces.
“I was really confident in my teammates,” Clint said. “It was really great to see all of my teammates play really well, especially on Senior Night.”
Picking up steam throughout the match, Canyon played to its strengths and played sound volleyball, forcing West Ranch to commit unforced errors.
Getting within two points, Canyon tied the game after a hitting error by the Wildcats and an Aaron Berko kill at 11-11 and took its first lead of the third game on the very next point.
Grinding out point-after-point, both teams left it all out on the court trading the lead back-and-forth until it was tied 29-29.
Scoring the final two points, West Ranch’s Neiko Pittman ended the game and sealed the match with a thunderous kill down the middle of the court to complete the sweep and clinch West Ranch’s fourth straight Foothill League title.
“We just don’t give up,” Bisla said. “Our coach has been preaching that all season. Even when we are down, just do what we have been doing all game and keeps our foot on the gas pedal.”
West Ranch travels to Valencia in a rivalry game tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., while Canyon’s season comes to a close and will wait to see they get awarded an at-large bid into the playoffs.
“Our goal is not only to go undefeated in league at 10-0, but we also want to go undefeated in sets as well,” Lin said. “So I feel that in order to do that we have to be the scrappiest, hardest hustling team ever because when we play hard like that I feel that we are a very solid team and really thought to beat.”
Blake Mahaffey led the Cowboys with seven kills, Connor Cooper had four kills while Berko and Troy Bietsch had three each.
“In 2014 we were kind of the same position. We got fourth place in league and had a winning record,” Cody said. “But if you look at the past, the divisions are not the best right now and the last couple years it’s been a lot of Wild Card matches.
“So I hope we get in, but if we don’t, I’m not going to be upset because it wasn’t our fault. We talked about this in the beginning of the season, to have a winning record or be .500 and above and make sure that if we don’t get it it wasn’t because of us.”