The Dos Pueblos volleyball team recovered from a first-set loss and deficits in the third and fourth sets against a potent Palos Verdes team and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinals.
Behind the hitting of Grant Hughes, the clutch play from middles Reid Sisney and Luke Gilner and the serving off the bench from Nate Gotsis, the spirited Chargers beat the Sea Kings 20-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-16 on Saturday afternoon at Sovine Gym.
Dos Pueblos (20-8) moves on to a quarterfinal match-up at top-seeded Upland on Wednesday.
Hughes sparked the Chargers with his hitting, blocking, defense and setting. The junior led his team with 21 kills and six blocks.
Hughes received a lot of help from his teammates. Sisney and Gilner provided some big plays in key moments with their blocking and hitting. They helped slow down PV’s high-flying Matthew Warter, who blasted 23 kills. Gilner had four blocks.
“We were having a blast, it was a lot of fun,” said Sisney of the intense match between two teams that play in tough leagues. DP finished third behind Channel League co-champions Santa Barbara High (Division 1) and San Marcos (Division 2). Palos Verdes was third behind Division 1 programs Mira Costa and Redondo Union.
After splitting the first two sets, the Chargers found themselves down 7-1 in the critical third. They rallied and took a 14-13 lead behind a crushing spike by Hughes a couple of tough serves from sophomore Micah Goss.
Palos Verdes went on a 5-1 run to take a 20-18 lead, but DP answered with a four straight points. Gilner had stuff block in the run and a tough serve by Gotsis generated another point.
Warter sided out for the Sea Kings before DP scored the final three points. Ewen Richard ripped a kill from the left side, Gilner and Hughes stuffed Warter and Goss put away a back set from Richards for the game winner and a 2-1 advantage in sets.
Sisney said the Chargers made adjustments to keep the high-flying Warter from taking over the match.
“Having our middles keep an eye on that guy and make sure we take away all his angles and shut down his pipes (shoot sets) was a big deal in getting the win,” said Sisney.
On the final point, Micah Goss, Gilner and Hughes put up a triple block on Warter and Gilner got the majority of the rejection to set off a Charger celebration.
“The middle can be an unforgiving position sometimes, but I thought they did a great job of just putting their heads to the grindstone,” said DP coach Ehren Hug of Gilner and Sisney. “They kept making the moves and trying to get across (the net) and keep themselves available (for attacks).
“They both had a couple of clutch blocks at the end of the fourth set.”
Sisney got a touch on a Warter attack and the Chargers converted in transition for a 17-13 lead. Libero Parker Randolph scored on a one-armed dig of a Warter bomb and Sisney stuffed the Sea Kings’ star for a 19-14 lead.
Sisney said the Chargers did a better job at lining up with Warter’s hitting shoulder.
“I noticed that the number seven’s pipe normally went to the left side, so I was scooching a little bit more that way,” he explained.
“We were blocking from all the areas, so I’m super pleased with our defense,” said Hug. “They were beating us up quite a bit and we weren’t getting it every time. But our team was super solid and stayed dedicated.”
Goss reached high for kill to start a 6-1 DP run to finish off the match.
Gotsis keyed the run with three deep float serves — two for aces — before the Sea Kings sided out.
“He’s been practicing it every day and is just a stud with that,” said Sisney.
“He let it fly at the end,” said Hug. “He gripped it and ripped it. “Nate was huge off the bench at the end of that fourth set. I could tell (his serves) kind of took the wind out of their sails.”
After finishing the regulars season with losses against Santa Barbara and three teams in the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions, Dos Pueblos has found new life in the playoffs.
“We played in a good league, so sometimes you play well but come out with a loss. And you’re not so sure you’re doing everything right,” said Hug. “So it’s nice to see a bunch of teenagers keeping each other accountable and being good teammates.
“And at the right time of the season.”
Sisney said the non-stop cheering from the bench made a huge difference for the Chargers.
“The energy they brought, all those cheers, really turned it around,” he said.