By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Burroughs boys’ volleyball (7-3) defeated the hosting West Ranch Wildcats (9-2, 2-0) 3-2 with scores of 25-13, 24-26, 23-25, 25-22 and 15-13.
The Wildcats were sloppy to start and quickly found themselves in a 1-9 hole in the first set. The Cats couldn’t get into any groove and constant mental mistakes cost West Ranch the set.
The Bears wouldn’t miss a beat, capitalizing on every Wildcat out of position, hitting error and serving error. They would drop the Cats by 12 points in the opening set.
“I was just encouraging them to continue to play within themselves in an aggressive manner,” said head coach Brandon Johnson. “It’ll clean up on its own and it did.”
West Ranch put the set behind them and came out swinging in the second. The Wildcats looked back to normal but neither team could shake their opponent off in a tight set. West Ranch finally got into a rhythm with setter Kyle Glinohga spreading the love and setting several different Wildcats. The team was led by the normal duo Noah Douphner and Matt Reid but five different Wildcats finished with five or more kills.
The second set went tight to the very end. At 24-23 Burroughs, the freshman, Douphner, got a kill to tie the game, then a block to take the one-point lead. The set would end 26-24 on a kill from the pipe by outside hitter Matt Reid.
Douphner led the team with 19 kills. Reid played well, finishing with 17 kills with some big swings.
“I kept tipping the ball and that wasn’t doing it,” said Reid. “So I just had to be aggressive and swing away.”
The third set was just as tight. West Ranch kept trying to pull away with multiple three-point leads, but the Bears kept scrapping back in.
Burroughs’ attack of outside hitter Justin Burras gave the Cats defense fits. The Bears also got an inconsistent lift from freshman Puckey Lawrence, who was dangerous in the middle but struggled to get in sync with the swapping Burroughs setters.
Douphner got into a groove midway through the third and with Burroughs threatening to push the Wildcats past 25 again, the freshman ended the set with a kill.
West Ranch then found themselves in the drivers’ seat after coming out lifeless in the first set.
The fourth set was again tight with Burroughs slowly pulling away and making mistakes, getting the Cats back in the game. Reid would give West Ranch two big kills at the end of the set but a service ace from Libero Chris Johnson sucked the air out of the Cats, who gave up the fourth set on the next point.
West Ranch had to fight for every point in the fifth set and the team did not get the lead until middle blocker Carter Barton came through with a huge block. Barton was everywhere defensively for the Cats, playing well on the block and the back row.
Then with a chance to go up 10-9, West Ranch gave up an ace that was sailing out of bounds but managed to clip Douphner’s foot. The referees appeared to let nearly a dozen lifts slide for Burroughs, calling them inconsistently, but one was called late in the fifth. West Ranch responded with the gift by immediately doubling and giving up the point. Then again, the Bears gifted a point to the Cats via a service error but a big kill sealed it for Burroughs.
Johnson has now played Burroughs four times in his West Ranch head coaching tenure. Each team has won two and three of those games have gone to five sets.
West Ranch is still confident in their play and are still alive playing for their sixth perfect season in league games.
“We’ve been playing very well, I’m so proud of my boys,” said Johnson. “I told them today, ‘Knowing now that we can play at that high of a level is a really great thing and bad thing.’ Now I can hold them to that standard.”
The Wildcats are back in action Tuesday when the team hosts Valencia at 5:30 p.m.