Josh Willbanks recorded nine kills and Will Pace dominated the middle on Tuesday night as San Marcos swept Dos Pueblos 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 in a Channel League boys volleyball match at Sovine Gym.
The Chargers (4-2, 1-1) built a 19-15 lead in the first set before the Royals (6-3, 2-0) closed with an 11-5 burst, capped by kills off the block by left-hander Tyler Curt and Willbanks. The second set was equally tight with seven ties up to 15-all. Trailing 13-11, the Royals went on a 9-2 run and took a 20-15 advantage on a putaway by Willbanks.
Jake Ewart and Cade McLean blocked Sean Ortiz for the 24th point and Ewart blocked an overpass to put a bow on the 25-22 triumph.
“It was a league match between crosstown rivals and DP played a real tough match,” said San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz. “It could have gone either way in the first two games. It was a little sketchy by us at times because we weren’t communicating and we were running into each other and doing uncharacteristic things.
“I was real proud of Jake Ewart on the outside tonight. It shows six kills but I thought he had more than that. And he didn’t have any hitting errors. Will Pace played a great game in the middle and, as always, Cade McLean does a great job in the middle. We didn’t play great but I’m happy with the win.”
Kayode Lovejoy-Hall led Dos Pueblos (4-2, 1-1) with 13 kills and Sean Ortiz had 11. The Chargers had leads in all three sets, including 7-1 to start the third, but couldn’t find the finishing touch.
“Tonight was some of our finest volleyball,” said DP coach Ehren Hug. “We got a little tight past 20 and we had a few too many errors. San Marcos was a little steadier and kept the ball in down the stretch. That’s a good team over there.
“I thought Sean was great tonight. I was happy with our attacking from the pins. This was a good match for a young team. Our passing and serve receive have been huge positive things from last year to this year.”
Junior libero Emmett Ehrnstein had 13 digs for the Chargers and Philip Norblad added five.
The Chargers stormed out to leads of 6-0 and 7-1 in the third set on some Royal errors and a couple of blocks by Baylor Huyck. McLean slammed one off the block to ignite a 16-5 Royal run, capped by three straight DP errors that gave San Marcos a 17-12 lead. Ewart ripped a crosscourt kill from the left side and McLean and setter Ryan Feller combined on a block on match point.
“We came out a little shaky and we’re still tightening things up as a team,” said Pace, a senior middle blocker. “In the clutch moments when it really counted, we came together and played with a lot of heart. We did what we had to do to win.
“I feel great about this team. It’s a bunch of great guys who all bought in and are working really hard. I have real high hopes for the season.”
Kuntz says his team is better at blocking than they’ve been in the past.
“We got touches on a lot of balls and played the net pretty well,” he said. “We’re still a little bit of a work-in-progress but we have a lot of talent. I knew they were going to try to short-serve us and that took our big middles out of the game a little bit and stretched us out.
“I thought our outsides played well, Tyler Curt did a good job at opposite. All-in-all, I was pretty proud with our production on our pins tonight.”