Canyon of Anaheim came into the San Marcos Thunderhut with a big-time opposite hitter who his headed to Loyola of Chicago.
But the host Royals got big-game performances from its front line of Mason Rice, Jack Wilson, Kyle Foley and Luke Walker to neutralize Tyler Howard and Canyon in an impressive 25-23, 25-21, 25-17 sweep in a CIF-SS Division 2 second-round boys volleyball playoff match on Saturday.
The victory sends San Marcos (29-7) into the quarterfinals, where they’ll face Servite on Wednesday at the Thunderhut.
Rice led a formidable San Marcos blockade against the 6-foot-5 Howard. He had two solos in the second set and had two more blocks in the third. Rice finished with six total blocks in the match.
“Honestly, I just kind of simplified it, because I’m usually thinking about everything — the outside, the middle and the opposite — and I’m spread really thin,” said the 6-5 Rice. “But I said, ‘Alright, let’s go into oppo. I’m going to go up, take angle, and then if he swings line, I’m going to take line once, keep toggling until I keep blocking him.’ And I just kept blocking him. It’d say it was partly luck, but it was pretty important.”
San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz and Canyon’s was Matthew Silva were thoroughly impressed by Rice’s blocking performance.
“Their coach came over and said, ‘What’s up with 13. We watched him on film and he wasn’t that good, and he shut our guy down,’’’ said Kuntz. “I said, he did, and (the blocks) were with emphasis too. It wasn’t like it was a little fluffy. It was big. It was college-level blocking at that point.
“You saw that guy try to go away from the angle and it wasn’t him. He tried to roll and chop and cut and that’s not his game. He’s a detonator.”
Howard had 21 kills to lead Canyon.
The Royals’ tremendous blocking supported a fluid, diversified and balanced attack.
Junior outside Jack Wilson led the Royals with 16 kills on a .500 hitting percentage, Rice put away 12 kills on the outside, Luke Wilson had 11 kills on a .529 average at the opposition position and middle Kyle Foley hit .750 with six kills.
“When we’re passing great and we’re smooth, we got big-time arm swings coming from the front, the backside to the back row,” said Kuntz. “From a hitting standpoint, we just didn’t make a lot of hitting errors tonight.”
Setter Hansen Streeter mixed up the attack beautifully. He set Wilson all over court, ran combinations and executed perfect shoot sets.
“He ran the show, that’s what he’s supposed to do and that’s what he does best,” said Mason of the senior Streeter.”
The first set was the difference maker in the match. Canyon came out blasting kills and jump serves to take control early. But San Marcos never got more than three points behind.
“It was everything,” said Kuntz of how the first set impacted the rest of the match. “We were down two or three points the whole first set. I’m trying to keep us in a little bit by finding the servers that are going to work and make sure we don’t let (Canyon) get too far away from us by calling a couple of early timeouts.
“Then all of a sudden they make a couple of mistakes and we were able to capitalize.”
The score was 22-19 when a Canyon serving error kicked off a four-point San Marcos run. Walker scored with a hit to the deep corner, Canyon committed a hitting error on the next play and Wilson followed with a spike off some fingers to finish a rally and give the Royals a 23-22 lead.
Silva protested that the Royals committed a double contact while keeping the ball in play, but the officials let the play stand.
Canyon hit out of bounds on the next play before siding out to make it 24-23.
Wilson finished the set with a block.
“I’d say that put our right foot forward. It was great,” said Rice of the first-set win.
San Marcos rode the momentum into the second set and went up 18-13. Canyons fought back and pulled to within three, 23-20, on an ace by setter Ben Lloyd.
The teams traded sideouts before Wilson finished a perfectly executed combination play in the middle for the winning point.
Canyon kept the third set close until the Royals went on a 6-1 run for a 23-15 advantage, with Rice making a solo block to cap the surge.
Wilson put away a shoot set from Streeter to complete the sweep.
“We definitely played the best match of the year tonight. We brought our ‘A’ game,” said Kuntz.