For the first time in eight years, Valencia Vikings boys’ volleyball swept the West Ranch Wildcats on the road.
Valencia took down the Cats for the second time this season, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21.
It was the first varsity win in the Wildcats’ gym for every Viking and Valencia head coach Josh Kornegay.
“It feels good. We did a good job and the guys worked hard,” Kornegay said. “I don’t think we played as well as we could have but good enough to get the win, and everyone got in, it was a nice win.”
Kornegay had been out sick and missed a couple of matches but returned to the team for the momentous win.
Valencia began the day with its most lopsided set. Outside hitters Jet Ricks and Jarek Pascua got off to a hot start, combining for eight kills in the opening set.
Pascua ended the day with a match-high 13 kills.
The Vikings led by as much as 12 points when West Ranch found some momentum late in the set. Opposite hitter Chris Sherwood ended any chance of a comeback with back-to-back points to close out the set, blocking a Wildcat attack, then ending the set with a kill.
Serving errors from the Vikings gifted seven free points to West Ranch in the second set. The Vikings still managed to pull away after Pascua kept the heat high on the net and at the service line. However, at 21-19, Valencia was awarded a point for a kill. The Cats’ bench protested the call and was hit with a red card. The second frame went on for a few more points until 24-21 when the referees finally gave the red card point to the Vikings to end the set.
The Wildcats refused to roll over and took their biggest lead in the third set. West Ranch went up 9-5 before the Vikings rallied back. Cats opposite hitter Stuart Soule caught fire on the net and knocked down four of his seven kills in the final set.
Soule has stepped up into the main opposite hitter role as West Ranch continues to be hit with injuries.
“Last year [Soule] didn’t get a lot of playing time, so he’s really anxious to kind of leave his mark on West Ranch volleyball and I thought he did a great job today,” said Cats head coach Brandon Johnson. “When we needed him to get a kill, he did it. When we needed him to get a block, he did it, we needed him to set some balls, he did it and so I was, I was very pleased with him.”
Another returner from last season is big server and libero Ryan Park. The libero didn’t notch any aces but kept his team in play with some tough serving.
“We don’t earn a lot of points on the serving line,” Johnson said. “So, I am trying to encourage a few of the boys to really go for it and put us into point-scoring opportunities. Certain servers on the team have a green light and if they miss, I’m OK with it because they put us on scoring opportunities, and that’s what Ryan did today. I am very pleased with him, he’s one of our two seniors on the court. I thought he played fantastic today.”
The third set was tied several times with both teams battling in long rallies.
Valencia earned some breathing room late in the frame and a kill from middle blocker Sri Cheeman sealed the historical match.
Kornegay will simply hope to keep seeing effort from his guys as they wind down the season in April.
“Honestly, just effort,” Kornegay said on what he wants to see in the back half of league play. “I want them to play as hard as we can and just let the pieces fall where they fall. As long as we do that, we can walk out happy.”
The Vikings remain in a second-place tie with Golden Valley in the Foothill League. That tie will be broken Friday night when Valencia hits the road to face the Grizzlies at 5:30 p.m.
“Even after that devastating loss to Hart, I still feel pretty good that we can win league this year,” Pascua said. “We’re all like a bunch of hard-working guys. We all aim towards one goal, which is winning. We’re all committed to winning.”
The Cats ended up in the loss column again, but Johnson was proud of his team, as multiple Wildcats played big roles on Thursday.
“I thought overall, this was probably the best match of seeing a few different guys step up,” Johnson said. “We’ve kind of had one guy here or there kind of take some responsibility and get some kills, but today, a few different guys stepped up. That’s what we’re going to need to move forward with us being just such a young team.”
West Ranch sits in fourth and still has a solid chance to make the postseason. The Wildcats return to action after spring break, when the team hosts Thousand Oaks on Wednesday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m.