The West Ranch boys volleyball team kept its undefeated Foothill League record intact on Wednesday night, defeating Saugus at home in three sets: 25-15, 25-15, 25-23.
Things were close at the start of the first set, with both teams battling back and forth to put the score at 14-13 in favor of West Ranch (17-6 overall, 6-0 in Foothill League).
A Zack Drake kill made the score 15-13, and the Wildcats were able to pull away, scoring 10 of the next 12 points.
Anytime Saugus seemed to build a little momentum, Drake and opposite hitter Alex Miller squashed it with a big kill.
Drake finished the contest with 16 kills (.636) and Alex Miller had seven kills (.400) to lead the Wildcats.
“Zack and Alex have very special arms that we don’t see very often in this league,” said West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson. “There’s a lot of things that are rally killers for other teams. A big block, a big ace, but when you see a guy go up and take a good strong solid approach and crush the ball like that it can definitely build momentum for us and hopefully take away some from their team.”
“It’s great playing alongside great hitters,” said West Ranch setter Johnny Buchanan. “It helps me a lot as a setter be able to confidently set them and trust that they are going to get a kill each point.”
West Ranch pulled ahead early in the second set, taking a 3-0 lead behind back-to-back kills from Daniel Bisla and one from Miller. Saugus (7-9, 2-4) answered back with a kill from Tucker Davis and a block from Daniel Compton to make the score 9-7 in the Wildcats’ favor.
A Compton kill made the score 11-9 with Saugus trailing, but the Cents seemed to be picking up momentum, until Buchanan stepped behind the service line.
The junior rattled off three aces in a row and the Wildcats won seven straight points to put the second set out of reach.
“Those aces in a row, I can definitely tell that brings the momentum for the whole team as one unit and me as an individual player,” said Buchanan, who also logged five kills, 26 assists and five digs. “I know when one player gets going it helps everybody get going, so that’s a big part.”
The third set started similarly to the first, with the teams staying neck and neck. Compton had back-to-back kills to put Saugus up 12-11.
However, there was some miscommunication on Saugus’ part, and two aces in a row from West Ranch’s Spencer Birchall gave the Wildcats a 15-13 advantage. Birchall finished with six digs and four aces.
“There was a little bit of miscommunication here and there, but overall we have to figure out when we need to be aggressive and start going after it a little more,” said Saugus head coach Max Nua. “Our dynamic offense was pretty good, it was on display. I think that’s a big upside for us when we’re putting teams on the ropes and making them fight for every point they can get.”
Saugus fought back to make the score 17-15 in its favor after kills from Dillon Smith and Tim Kempler, but once again Drake stopped the Centurions’ drive with a kill and an ace, putting West Ranch up 20-18.
Another ace from Buchanan made the score 23-21, and he set up Miller one more time for the final point, who crushed the ball to clinch the victory.
“They play for each other, it is a family atmosphere. It’s really great to see that on the court, to see them playing for one another,” Johnson said. “Things clicked really good today, we played really good in basically every facet of the game.”
West Ranch will look to keep its undefeated record unscathed on Thursday, facing Golden Valley at home.
Saugus will try to get back in the win column, taking on Canyon at home.
Both matches are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.