By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys volleyball team advanced to the CIF Division II semifinals with a four-game home win May 11 against Mount Carmel.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs defeated the fifth-seeded Sundevils in a 25-15, 25-18, 28-30, 27-25 match to earn a May 17 semifinal competition against top-seeded Westview.
“The last two games were incredibly intense,” said Coach Jeff Klauda. “First two games we played really well. Serve-receive was incredibly consistent.”
The match was the third of the season between Ramona and Mount Carmel. On April 10 Ramona prevailed in a three-game match at home while the Sundevils won their May 3 home match in five games.
Ramona middle blocker Matt Lawler has not played since his hand swelled during an April 25 practice and he was subsequently diagnosed with having a soft tissue tear. The Lawler brothers started the season as Ramona’s starting middle blockers.
“We still had Kenny,” Klauda said.
Opposite hitter Travis May led Ramona in kills during the April 10 win against Mount Carmel, and the Sundevils had seen May twice earlier in the season.
“They know what kind of offense he runs,” Klauda said.
Klauda’s instructions to setter Garrett Adelman were: “Game one is the Kenny show.” Adelman’s task was to set to Kenny Lawler for as long as Mount Carmel couldn’t figure out how to defend against him.
“Kenny just went off. It was awesome,” Klauda said.
In the first game Lawler took 11 swings and had nine kills with just one hitting error. In the second game he had five swings and five kills.
“The Kenny show was all match long. It was insane,” Klauda said.
Lawler ended the match with 29 kills on 41 swings and only four hitting errors.
“That’s a ridiculous hitting line. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Klauda said.
May had 17 kills during the match. Adelman had a total of 59 assists.
“We kind of cruised the first two games,” Klauda said. “Games three and four we had serve-receive breakdowns. We weren’t able to run our offense.”
It didn’t help the Bulldogs that Mount Carmel was able to adjust somewhat to Ramona’s offense.
“Mt. Carmel played defense like we expected,” Klauda said.
Ramona trailed for most of the third game before tying the score at 24 points apiece. Ramona had match point but failed to secure that final kill.
“Mt. Carmel made some plays,” Klauda said.
The Sundevils were the first team to reach ten points in the fourth game, but the Bulldogs came back and eventually gained leads of 18-15 and 20-18 before facing game point after Mt. Carmel took a 24-20 lead.
“We just collapsed,” Klauda said. “We finally sided out to get to 21. Luke Papps went back and basically served us back into the match.”
After his serves produced two Ramona points, Papps placed a ball for an ace to tie the score. The Sundevils obtained a sideout for game point, but Ramona scored the next three points to win the match.
“We just set Kenny every chance we could,” Klauda said.
Reed Hallums was Ramona’s other starting middle blocker with Lance Stickney taking over for Hallums when the serve-receive situation called for a stack formation. Josh Spieker also contributed positively to Ramona’s serve-receive.
“His serve-receive was nails,” Klauda said.
Spieker and Josh Plunkett were Ramona’s two starting outside hitters.
Klauda also praised the play of his libero.
“Caleb Nelson played outstanding defense,” Klauda said.
The match was the final home contest of the year for the Bulldogs and the final home match in a Ramona uniform for seniors May, Lawler, Adelman, Nelson, Papps, and Jake Hitt.
“It was nice for the seniors especially,” Klauda said. The win improved Ramona’s season record to 22-17.