Wildcats’ comeback falls just short against Westlake in season opener

Noah Douphner (21) of West Ranch puts a shot over the net against Westlake High at West Ranch High on Tuesday, 022222. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Justin Vigil-Zuniga 

Signal Sports Writer 

West Ranch boys’ volleyball (0-1) came up short in a five-set thriller with the Westlake Warriors (1-0) with scores of 16-25, 25-21, 25-22, 26-28 and 15-13. 

Serving errors plagued the Wildcats in the first three sets, but head coach Brandon Johnson preached aggressiveness and did not want the team to stop taking big swings behind the service line. 

West Ranch had total control of the game in the first set, but the serving errors managed gave Westlake a lot of life. The Wildcats, however, won the opening set convincingly. West Ranch was led by freshman opposite hitter Noah Douphner who knocked down 16 kills in his first-ever varsity game. 

“[Douphner] is an extremely special volleyball player,” said Johnson. “He has a ridiculous future ahead of him.” 

The Warriors remained poised and refused to play like a team that got hammered in the first set. Westlake’s hitters put a lot of pressure on West Ranch’s defense with a lot of damage being done in the middle. The Warriors had several hard hitters and managed to tie the game in the second. Westlake pulled away just as the Wildcats started tightening the screws that got them in the hole. 

Westlake ran with the momentum in the third set and managed to answer every point West Ranch could muster up. The Wildcats worked from behind all set but finally took the hard-earned lead at 19-18. But consecutive hitting errors and the Warriors’ timely scoring put West Ranch on ice, securing the third set for Westlake. 

The middle attack of Teddy Elliot and Kyle Lundgren was huge for the Warriors, helping the team notch a 23-19 lead in the fourth set. But, the Wildcats remained calm and played their game, somehow managing to force extra points before winning the set, 28-26. Outside hitter Matt Reid was big in the run, registering one of his 11 kills and a service ace. 

Reid is the only returner of West Ranch’s 2021 five all-league players. 

The fifth set would be tight but again West Ranch struggled to take the lead and never led thanks to timely scoring from the Warriors. 

Douphner gave West Ranch hope and kept registering kills in the fifth, but it would end up being not enough as an Elliott block won the game for Westlake. 

West Ranch has not had a lot of practice time together due to COVID-19 and injuries early in the season.  

“I’m really excited about this roster,” said Johnson. “We’re probably one of the more athletic rosters that we’ve had here in a while. I think once we harness a little bit we’re going to be good.” 

Setter Kyle Glinoga was lights-out for the Wildcats and registered a huge 46 assists. Glinoga has shown serious promise in his season debut as the team’s setter. The senior has big shoes to fill as he replaces 2021 Foothill League Player of the Year Luke Haskett. Glinoga was in sync with Douphner and Reid as this team looks to win its sixth straight league championship. 

“Even though we lost, it was a good start to the season,” Douphner said. “Even though we didn’t get much practice time and didn’t win the match, I think we still played well as a team and we’re going to get better over the year.” 

West Ranch will now travel for a match at Quartz Hill on Thursday. 

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