Wildcats volleyball beats Paraclete in QF thriller   

West Ranch celebrates winning a point during Tuesday's game against Tustin on April 23. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Deadlocked in sets but down big in the third game, West Ranch boys’ volleyball found its spark. 

West Ranch trailed 20-13 in the pivotal set but somehow, some way, charged back into its CIF Division 4 quarterfinals match with the Paraclete Spirits. 

The Wildcats chipped away thanks to some proficient defense and timely kills on the net.  

Paraclete saw its seven-point lead get chipped down to three at 24-21, but West Ranch just wouldn’t be put away. 

“The beautiful thing about volleyball is that there’s no clock, they get to play until the ref says to go home,” Cats coach Brandon Johnson said in a phone interview. “There’s no such thing as a five-point play. All you can do is get one point in time, and we just slowly kept chipping away.  Even though we’re down 20-13 in the set we were able to make a fantastic comeback just playing one point at a time. Then winning that set gave us all the momentum we needed to take into set four.” 

The Wildcats sparked a run with backup libero Christopher Song serving and forced a deuce set. A solo block from junior Noah Douphner ended the third set, and although the fourth was tight, the Wildcats never trailed en route to the 3-1 victory. 

The Wildcats won the match, 25-13, 19-25, 28-26, 25-23. 

Douphner led the team with 20 kills while outside hitter Logan Sanchez added 11 with nine digs. Song, who subbed in late in the match added six digs. 

West Ranch (23-11) has been pushed past straight sets in 18 matches this season. The battle-tested group was prepared for a fourth set again and responded well throughout Wednesday’s playoff match. 

“We didn’t know at the moment but every match that we played this year that was a tough grind and a tough battle, whether we won or we lost, prepared us for that match,” Johnson said. “There was no pressure for our team because we had been in that situation before. Not every team has that experience of being in those hard-fought four-, five-set matches like we’ve been in a lot of times this year. So for us that was just another match. We were used to it. We’re used to that pressure and we’re used to our legs getting tired.” 

The Wildcats sped ahead in the first set before hitting a speed bump in the second. 

Johnson loved his team’s response in the third set, showing no signs of pressure and just chipping away at the Spirits’ (26-8-2) lead. 

“Coming back 20-13 is one of the best comebacks I’ve seen in my time as a coach,” Johnson said. “That’s just really hard to come back from. It’s a combination of our play and their play, right? They made some errors as well but it was just about the team believing in the ability to come back. That’s what really stood out to me.” 

West Ranch, the 12th seed in Division 4, now advances into the semifinals. No match is a given or a cake walk as the top four seeds have all been eliminated.  

The Cats will host the 10th seeded Murrieta Mesa Rams on Saturday, while No. 5 Valencia hosts No. 8 Poly of Pasadena. Both matches are slated for 6 p.m. 

Both local teams will host their semifinals bout with a chance of an all-Santa Clarita Valley CIF championship showdown Saturday, May 11. 

“The fact that the coin flip is in our favor is outstanding,” Johnson said. “I’m very excited. Obviously being able to host and not take a long drive is really nice. But it’s all just about executing as a team. We know what to do. We just have to go out and do it.” 

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