Firepower on the net from Bishop Alemany Warriors boys’ volleyball handed the hosting West Ranch Wildcats their third straight loss on Thursday.
Alemany won the match 25-16, 25-20, 25-18.
Outside hitter Ethan Panganiban led the Warriors with 12 kills, while teammates Layne Shepherd and Ryland Lazo finished with a combined 19 kills.
Several Warriors’ serving errors kept West Ranch (3-5) in the match but the Cats struggled to get consistent offensive swings. Junior Aiden Prestidge led West Ranch with three kills.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the night in the second set due to some stellar blocking. The hands on the net kept West Ranch close before a Prestridge ace took the lead.
Setter Ryder Riley-Smythe and 2022 Foothill League first teamer Noah Douphner were key in the comeback, with multiple blocks each. Douphner is nursing an offseason injury, and is still not back to 100%. The sophomore registered two kills and two blocks, without being able to take a real swing.
The Cats kept it close but miscommunication hurt the team late in the set as the Warriors (1-0) pulled away. West Ranch head coach Brandon Johnson has seen communication issues with his young team, but is pleased with the group’s progress.
“I think communication in general is an issue,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s miscommunication, good or bad. We have so many boys that are playing currently with either never played varsity before or never played volleyball before, which is a very unique dynamic, probably to most teams that want to be competitive. And I think that that is what we always want to be every single year.”
Blocking yet again kept the opening of the third set tight and the Wildcats were still fighting for the lead. However, in a near photocopy of the second set, miscommunication killed West Ranch before a Max Chua kill ended the game.
West Ranch is having an uncharacteristic start to the year, with Douphner’s being one of several injuries that Johnson is dealing with. Nonetheless, the Wildcats will gear up on a quest for the program’s seventh league title, all of which won in undefeated seasons.
“We scheduled very purposely, a very tough outside-of-league schedule in order to be ready for league,” Johnson said. “Matches like this where we take some lumps is fine in my book as long as my boys learn and grow and get better from it.”
The Wildcats will look to jump out of their skid and keep the program’s 63-game league win streak alive on Tuesday when West Ranch hosts Canyon.
Johnson and his team are elated to begin Foothill League action in what could be the most even-playing the league has seen in years.
“How can you not be excited about league play?” Johnson said. “We can talk every single year about the fact that we are a new team. This is the 2023 West Ranch Wildcats team, but you can’t help but look at the banner on the wall and see how many of the championships in a row and just know that every player, every coach that’s come before us has set a really strong positive legacy that we’re hoping to continue carrying on.”