Fourth-ranked Dos Pueblos’ boys’ volleyball team had its season end Wednesday night with a tough road loss in the CIF semifinals to top-ranked Valencia, 25-16, 25-14, 23-25, 25-19. The Chargers finish with a 23-10 record.
Valencia, which is also rated No. 3 in the nation, came out flying in front of a large home crowd, showing why it deserves such lofty rankings. The Vikings excel in almost every facet of the game, but particularly noteworthy was their serving. While the Chargers’ serve passing has been excellent for three rounds of the CIF playoffs, Wednesday night setters Ryan Beall and Tim Baxter were often setting on the dead run. As a result, the Chargers’ attackers were looking at a big and talented Valencia block.
The highlights for Dos Pueblos in game one were two stuff blocks by Jordan Dyer (rather generously listed at 6-foot-2) on 6-foot-9 UCSB-bound Jake Piva. Game two was more of the same, and when Valencia jumped out to a lead in game three, the match looked over.
The Chargers are a proud group, however, and they rallied behind their sophomore, Will McCracken, who asserted himself offensively in the third game. Dos Pueblos pulled even at 19-19 and pushed ahead for the first time in the match. At 20-19, first Beall made an excellent dig, then Derek Martinez came up with one of his 15 digs, leading to a Vikings net violation. With a two-point lead, the Chargers were in business, and it was immediately stretched to three as Elijah Papen-Blackwell came up with a stuff block. Kills by Beall and McCracken pushed the score to 24-21. After a sideout, Valencia got a dig and a kill from Hawaii-bound outside hitter Jon Griffith, who was a thorn in the Chargers’ side all night. At 23-24, McCracken came well inside the 10-foot line and got low to pass a short serve, then scrambled back for his approach. Baxter caught the Vikings watching Ben Johnson (seven kills) and Beall, and back set McCracken. With no one up, McCracken hammered one of his eight kills and Dos Pueblos had the game.
In the fourth game, Dos Pueblos fell behind again early, but rallied in the midgame as Johnson finally solved 6-foot-7 Vikings middle Jim Baughman, sandwiching two of his four blocks around one from Beall. With the score at 15-14, the game, and perhaps the match, hung in the balance, but Griffith unloaded a serve that led to a free ball, converted by Valencia in transition, followed by an ace, followed by another service winner, and the threat had been averted. One last rally drew the Chargers within 19-22, but Valencia closed out the game. Match point was fittingly applied with a roof block by Griffith on McCracken.
The finish of this season marks a changing of the guard for the Chargers. Traditionally, high school sports have been divided into three discrete seasons. To compete at even the Channel League level, it has become increasingly necessary for teenage athletes to play a sport year round, and to seek out the high level of competition that club sports permit. Time demands for both practice and games — not to mention schoolwork — make it increasingly difficult to be a multisport athlete. While many of the Dos Pueblos coaches — certainly including coach Chris Hughes — encourage and accommodate multiple-sport participation, not all club coaches have been as understanding. Of the nine players who saw major time in the playoffs for Dos Pueblos four were seniors. Beall, Johnson and Sean Park were the starting front line of the basketball team and Martinez was a stalwart on the football team. Only Johnson was able to play club volleyball during this winter. The underclassmen — Baxter, Dyer, McCracken, Brian Schoenberger and Cody Zoesch — all are volleyball players, and most of them play year round.
Beall, Johnson and Martinez played in three CIF quarterfinal matches and two semifinals and can be proud of their achievements. For the underclassmen, there are other things they’d like to accomplish. They’d like to beat Santa Barbara. They’d like to be league champions. They’d like to make — and win — a CIF final. They’ll have to wait for next year for their chance.
Will Beall is a Dos Pueblos High parent.