Recapping West Ranch Boys Volleyball’s 2019 Season

Noah Neri, Staff Writer

West Ranch volleyball had another great season this year, winning their fourth straight league title and extending their league win streak to an amazing 40 wins with an overall record of 27-8 (10-0 in league).

The Wildcats started out with an up-and-down preseason, winning games against Simi Valley, Notre Dame and Quartz Hill but falling to Thousand Oaks and Alemany. However, these games were crucial in preparing the team to compete in league and the postseason.

The Cats came into league season with guns blazing. They won eight games, two each against Hart, Saugus, Canyon, and Golden Valley, clearly dominating their league competition. Senior middle Daniel Bisla said some of their keys to success were “doing breathing exercises to get our minds right and physically preparing by doing a 6v6 drill that is game like.”

However, one team would stand to challenge the Cats for the league title: Valencia.

The Wildcats’ main rival and second-best team in league played the Wildcats twice and put their league streak in jeopardy, taking them all the way to five sets both times. Despite this, West Ranch always battled back and gutted out tough wins to stay undefeated and take the league title.

Speaking about these intense games, head coach Brandon Johnson remarked, “I had confidence in our boys that they would pull it out, and they fought and earned it. Those games are more fun than stress for me. We train for those games.”

After winning the league title, the next goal for the Cats was playoff success. Being knocked out in the first round last year had left a bitter taste in the team’s mouth, and they were eager to wash that away. In the first round, the Cats were up against Dos Pueblos, and this proved to be a favorable matchup as West Ranch swept the Chargers in three sets.

In the second round, the Cats had an away game at Thousand Oaks. They had already lost a match at the same location earlier in the season and knew it would be a battle to advance. The Wildcats and Lancers exchanged blows, but West Ranch fought for the win, and the team was victorious with a score of 3-1 and moved on to the quarterfinals.

Their opponents were the Bishop Alemany Warriors, and the court was set for the huge matchup, which would be played at Valencia High. The Warriors took the first set 17-25, but after that, it was all West Ranch. The Cats won three straight sets 25-23, 25-22, and 27-25, holding off a late Alemany run to triumph 3-1.

The Wildcats’ playoff schedule was a strange coincidence as West Ranch had lost to Thousand Oaks and Alemany in consecutive games early in the season. In the playoffs, they played the same teams, again consecutively, and emerged triumphant both times.

When asked about these rematches, Coach Johnson said, “Our boys are great at making adjustments. We watched film, we put together a game plan, and we executed. It was so exciting to see the boys pull those matches out. They really earned it.”

Although the Cats fell in the semifinals to Saddleback Valley, the eventual champions, it was an exceptional season, matching the team’s deepest playoff run ever. West Ranch will graduate middles Colin Murphree and Daniel Bisla, as well as hitters Max Lin, Brett Borden, and Tristin Clint.

However, the Wildcats are in good hands with returning Foothill Player of the Year Johnny Buchanan, Foothill League first-teamers Zack Drake and Spencer Birchall, and second-teamer Neiko Pittman as they chase an incredible 50 straight league wins next year.