STOCKTON – Weston Ranch High boys’ volleyball squad was locked in a battle Monday against visiting East Union.
At stake was first place in the Valley Oak League.
The Cougars (2-0 VOL, 7-2) won it in four, 20-25, 25-15, 25-20, 27-25.
“They’re the best team we’ve faced,” said Weston Ranch coach Debi Chavez of the Lancers.
Indicative of that occurred in the fourth game.
East Union (1-1 VOL, 4-3) had four chances of forcing a decisive fifth game only to see the Cougars battle back each time.
“We needed to be more aggressive,” said a disappointed Lancers coach Chelsea Herrera. “We didn’t execute like we normally do.”
After taking the first game of the best-of-five match, East Union rebounded from losing the following two games by maintaining a slight edge through most of that fourth game, which was knotted up 10 times.
The Lancers behind the serving of Alec Alegre, Jonathan Castaneda, Jake Lill and Santana Vasquez had surged ahead late in the game. Austin Scott’s kill shot made it 24-21.
But Weston Ranch kept its composure, with Armando Mendoza dropping in a shot followed by a block. Vinay Singh also had a block, tying it up at 24-24.
A kill by Castaneda again gave East Union the game-point advantage.
Mendoza then came up with his eighth block of the match -- he also had eight kills -- tying the game at 25-25.
Weston Ranch took advantage of a passing error and out-of-bound shot, respectively, by the Lancers in claiming the game and match.
Chavez was proud of the way her team fought back in that game.
“We showed our mental toughness and our focus,” she said.
Besides Mendoza, setter Milo Bayot dished out 21 assists while coming up with 11 digs for the Cougars.
Libero Jimmy Nguyen had 15 digs, outside hitter Josh Ico chipped in with six kills and six digs, and middle blocker Raul Melgarejo came through with three kills and four blocks.
For East Union, Flavio Mercado had 10 kills and nine blocks, and Castaneda also had 10 kills to go with his four digs, a serving ace and a block.
In addition, Parmhir Khattra delivered on 29 assists, three digs and an ace, and Alegre had six kills and six blocks.
The Lancers broke a 15-15 tie in the opener by forging ahead behind the serving of Cameron Torres and front line play of Khattra, Castaneda and Scott.
Weston Ranch led from start to finish in the second and third games.
The Cougars jumped out to a 13-4 lead in that second game. Mendoza had one stretch when he scored on a pair of blocks and a kill. Melgarejo delivered on a block and kill early on while Ico scored on a spike and dropped a shot for a point.
Couple that with a rough patch by the Lancers, who committed several hitting and passing miscues.
“There were a lot of those little things that hurt us,” Herrera said.
Weston Ranch jumped out an early 7-1 lead in the third game and never East Union come no closer than four points of the lead.
The Cougars closed out the game on Mendoza’s block.
The two teams will meet again later in the season.