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CIF boys volleyball: Strides made on ride

West Ranch falls in semifinals, but Wildcats made school history with surprise playoff run

Posted: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

NEWPORT BEACH — And just like that, the most successful season in West Ranch boys volleyball history came to an abrupt end.

The Wildcats, who had never won a playoff game in program history prior to this season, fell in the CIF-Southern Section Division II semifinals to defending champion Corona Del Mar 3-0 on Tuesday night at Corona Del Mar High School by scores of 25-12, 25-20, 25-18.

But West Ranch quickly looked like a team that knew what it had just accomplished, rather than one dwelling on a loss.

The Wildcats came running back into the gym after a brief exit under a makeshift tunnel of fans, with head coach Nate Sparks and his players fielding congratulations from others.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of these guys,” Sparks said. “We made so many strides, not only as a volleyball program but as a school. We’re the first to do this.”

Of course, West Ranch had hoped to earn a berth in the CIF-SS Division II finals on Saturday, but the superior serving that had carried it to this point was lacking from the beginning on Tuesday.

West Ranch struggled to maintain any momentum in the contest, and was almost just as likely to send a pivotal serve into the net as over it.

The Wildcats committed 12 service errors and 31 errors overall.

“Our serving made us the first three rounds and tonight we didn’t serve as well,” Sparks said. “And that really affected us.”

That wasn’t the only thing taking its toll, though.

Sea Kings senior Parker Brown dominated the game from start to finish, attacking from all over the court and accounting for 16 kills, two blocks, seven digs and an overwhelming seven aces.

“I was feeling pretty good today,” Brown said. “This was my last time playing in this gym and I wanted to give it everything I have.”

Also finding success for Corona Del Mar was Thomas Hunter, who had six kills, Jack Reed (five kills), Devin Gordinier (five kills and four digs) and Joe Ctvrlik (34 assists and two digs).

The Wildcats looked overwhelmed from the beginning, playing inside of a gym with slightly less than 100 CIF Championship banners on its walls.

“They told me (they weren’t intimidated),” Sparks said. “But even against Laguna (in the quarterfinals) the first game there was a big intimidation factor. (Today) after game one they settled down. They saw this team wasn’t any different and they had a chance.”

Unfortunately, the errors kept the Wildcats from making any substantial runs in game two.

West Ranch stayed close in that game, tying things up at 17-17 on a kill by Ben Davis, but the Sea Kings closed things out on an 8-3 run to take a commanding 2-0 lead in games.

Game three followed a similar pattern, with the Sea Kings pulling ahead early and never trailing, as West Ranch service errors continually halted what looked like momentum turning moments.

But that didn’t matter after it was all over, as Sparks was quickly able to reflect on the run the Wildcats put together this postseason.

“They played their hearts out all season long. We had our ups and downs,” he said. “Everyone, even the guys coming into the season didn’t know we would get to the semifinals.”

Things might be more difficult next season, as the Foothill League moves up to CIF-SS Division I, but Sparks isn’t ready to count out his team.

“We’re bumping up, but we have a lot of really good returners,” he said. “They know they can do it. This is how a dynasty starts, by doing well one year.”

Notes: Junior Ben Davis led West Ranch with nine kills. Senior Tanner Williams had eight kills. Seniors Anthony Hanna led with 34 assists and Dalton Peck had six kills. And senior Josh Caton added six kills and was a perfect 1.000 percent hitting for the second time this season.



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