By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
West Ranch boys’ volleyball (19-4, 6-0) showcased its depth in its return home for a league matchup with Castaic (3-19, 0-5), sweeping the Coyotes with scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-17.
The Wildcats have played in nine games since Thursday, one away and the rest tournament matches. The squad has also been without head coach Brandon Johnson for over a week.
Johnson returned Tuesday from the COVID-19 reserve but the team was without some key players who were resting after their busy weekend.
The Cats were led by outside hitter Jake Sullivan and middle blocker Carter Barton, who both played excellently on the net with six kills apiece and plenty of blocks.
“It takes a whole team. We really need a buy-in from everybody,” said Johnson.
Neither team could pull away in the first set with both teams committing plenty of errors. Later in the set, Sullivan and interim setter Stuart Soule found their groove and attacked well. Sullivan knocked down two late kills to help the Cats pull away in the first set.
Sophomore lefty Riley Humphrey took the first point of the second set with a service ace.
Soule answered back with two consecutive serves Castaic couldn’t return, one of which was also an ace.
Coyotes middle blocker Sonny Collen had some good swings in the second. The sophomore led the team with six kills.
The Coyotes would make a run when down 19-12 at one point. Castaic gained a lot of momentum but with a chance to get within two points, it just slipped away. The Coyotes dropped the pivotal point in a long rally after Barton got another great solo block, making it 23-19.
Castaic still would not go away but a Derrick Hodge kill sealed the set for West Ranch.
The Wildcats had the sweep in their sights and stepped on the gas. The team got a boost from starting setter Kyle Glinoga entering for the first time, helping the fluidity of the offense. Libero Ryan Park also registered back-to-back aces, helping the Cats pull away.
The Coyotes again wouldn’t go away after being down 22-12, but West Ranch did not let them get in striking distance. Senior middle blocker Derrick Borden would score on consecutive plays, getting a kill and a block before Hodge ended the game once more with a kill.
Castaic is developing some solid talent in the program’s inaugural season. The team is made up of all underclassmen who are sharpening their skills under head coach David Chae.
“We’ve been practicing since October,” said Chae. “We’ve been trying to put everything together but these are all first-year players. What I love about this team is they love to play.”
The first-year head coach has some good foundational players in Collen, Humphrey, Colton Kim and Alexcis Padlan.
“Castaic is going to take some lumps for a while but if they keep that core group together playing the next couple years they’re a team that could make some noise,” said Johnson. “I commend their coach and administration for putting in the work to start a program. It’s obviously tough to do. I’m pumped to have another team in the league.”
Chae hopes that by the end of the season, his players can take away that their effort and hard work matters right now and that results will come eventually.
Both teams will be in action again Thursday as West Ranch will host Canyon while Castaic returns home to host Golden Valley.
“There’s still a lot we can improve on,” said Johnson. “We are going to work hard to improve on those areas but I’m very pleased with where we’re at. I’m pleased with our progression.”