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Foothill League boys volleyball: ’Cats have a lot of life

West Ranch still very much in title race

Posted: April 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch outside hitter Dalton Peck, left, hits the ball over the net as Hart’s Jordan Shultz (23) and Rhett Almond (26) defend Wednesday at West Ranch High.

It looked like West Ranch had things well in hand, at least until Hart found a spark late in the second game.

But these Wildcats weren’t about to give in. Sitting in second place through the first half of Foothill League play, they aren’t about to let Valencia run away with the title, either.

Tanner Skabelund finished with a match-high 19 kills and Anthony Hanna had 52 assists to help the Wildcats beat Hart 3-1 on Wednesday at West Ranch High School.

The Wildcats won by scores of 25-16, 25-20, 22-25 and 25-19.

“We play together as a team the whole time,” said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. “They’re starting to realize how good they can be.”

For most of the first two games, the Wildcats (16-7 overall, 4-1 Foothill League) passed well and had the advantage at the net. They also took advantage of Hart’s miscommunication and unforced errors.

The Indians (7-8, 1-4) lost a tight match to Golden Valley on Tuesday night, and head coach Kevin Ker felt it lingered a bit into Wednesday.

“We struggled with that,” he said. “When a couple of things go wrong, we just sink in. I’m proud of them for fighting back.”

Late in the second game, the Indians’ energy spiked and they cut the lead to 20-19 at one point before West Ranch held on.

But the Indians carried the momentum into the third game. They brought substitutes in off the bench like opposite Sammy Badalof and outside hitter Jared Turner, and they began setting their middles.

Badalof in particular was big down the stretch, with an ace and a kill to help Hart close out the game.

“I always tell my guys, you’ve got to be ready to play and bring that spark off the bench,” Ker said.

Once the Wildcats adjusted, however, they met Hart’s challenge.

“We buckled down,” said middle Chris Lyon. “We were not going to let this go to five (games). We were going to pull it out, and we did.”

West Ranch led by a workable margin throughout the fourth game, with Hart somewhat reverting back to its early struggles with long kill attempts and serves. The Wildcats pulled away late to seal the victory.

“The assistant coaches basically said, do you guys want to close this game out now, or go five and possibly lose?” Sparks said.

Dalton Peck had 10 kills for West Ranch, while Ben Davis added nine. Lyon finished with seven blocks.

Rhett Almond had 12 kills and hit at a .500 clip for Hart, while Nolyn Preston added eight kills. Chris Leclair had 37 assists and Sonny Mueller finished with nine digs.

The win closes a solid first half of league play for West Ranch, which was missing Hanna due to injury the first time it faced Valencia.

The Wildcats are eager for the rematch and the rest of the league schedule.

“Definitely,” Lyon said.



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