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From way back, Cats turn corner

On the cusp of a loss, West Ranch makes a huge comeback at home

Posted: April 3, 2009 1:19 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch High's Frankie Madero, right, pats the ball over the net Thursday as Canyon's Terris Walter tries to block the shot.

 
Viewed as one of the Foothill League’s elite teams heading into the season, West Ranch boys volleyball found itself four points away from taking a giant step backward.

Forced to regroup, the Wildcats pulled off a dramatic five-game comeback Wednesday, ruining Canyon’s upset bid 3-2 at West Ranch High behind the inspired play of seniors Frankie Madero and Jeff Zepp.

The Wildcats (5-3, 2-0) dropped the first two games 25-23, 25-16, then fought to a tie in the third at 21 points apiece.

After several big plays up front, West Ranch won the next four of five points to win 25-22.

“This team doesn’t decide to start playing until the end of game three,” said Wildcats head coach Nate Sparks of his team’s habitually late starts. “We had to realize it’s crunch time.”

That is where Madero and Zepp stepped in.

What had been a previously luckluster proformance turned into and an embattled three-game stretch, punctuated by hard kills and strong blocks.

Throughout the match, West Ranch posted 18 blocks for points, four of them coming from Madero.

“I was really upset,” Madero said. “My coach just sat me down, ‘I need you to lead this team.’ I just put my anger aside.”

Alongside Zepp, he did just that, rallying his team to a 25-17 win in game four and 15-6 in the fifth.

Madero also recorded eight kills and 24 assists, while Zepp racked up 13 kills, five blocks and 14 assists.

“Now we know we have what it takes to pull it back and win the game,” Zepp said. “We know what it takes.”

But Canyon (3-7, 0-2) never gave in, exemplified by senior Mike Edwards’ powerful slam down 14-5 in the fifth game.

Edwards, in his first season playing volleyball, finished with nine kills and four blocks, while teammate Matt Veiga racked up 16 kills and six blocks.

“I think we showed that we’ve been working hard because no one is expecting us to do much,” Edwards said.

Other standout performances for the Cowboys included Curtis Van Grimsven and his seven kills and four blocks, Steven Blachowiak had eight kills and two aces, and Alex Reeves recorded three kills and two blocks.

Their play forced the Wildcats to keep the intensity up, even after the momentum was clearly in their favor.

“We know how to play to five (games),” Madero said. “We never give up.”

Given the expecations coming into the season, Sparks knows what a devestating loss his team averted.

“It would have made everyone else think we weren’t as good as we really are,” he said. “It shows we can compete when we want to.”

Unfazed, Zepp and Madero agreed that conditioning also played a big role in their victory, and it is something they have been working on since early February, Zepp said.

It is paying off.

“We could go a whole ’nother five,” Zepp said.

pputignano@the-signal.com

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