By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys volleyball team extended its losing streak to four matches with an April 23 loss at Escondido but broke that losing streak April 25 with a home victory against Orange Glen.
The results gave the Bulldogs an overall record of 17-16, including a 2-6 Valley League figure, entering the final week of the regular season.
Ramona was swept by Escondido in 25-18, 25-20, and 25-18 games.
“We just did not play very well,” said coach Jeff Klauda. “We hit negative. We had more hitting errors than kills, and there’s just no way you can compete when you hit like that.”
Middle blocker Lance Stickney, who rolled an ankle during the final day of the April 12-13 Scripps Ranch Tournament, was still experiencing swelling and did not receive medical clearance to return for the Escondido or Orange Glen matches. Stickney had played against Escondido on March 14, when the Cougars defeated Ramona in four games.
“He was a good matchup for us against them when we played them last time,” Klauda said. “He was the one who kind of led the charge.”
The absence of Stickney in the second round of league play allowed Escondido to focus on Ramona’s outside hitters. In the third game the Cougars had 8-1 and 13-3 leads before the Bulldogs staged a comeback attempt.
“The guys kept fighting. They never quit,” Klauda said. “We did manage to close the gap.”
In some cases Ramona’s blocks were covered and landed on the Bulldogs’ side of the court.
“Every time we did something they had an answer,” Klauda said. “Even when we did the right thing it still wouldn’t work out.”
Klauda and assistant coach Connie Halfaker were concerned that the losing streak would adversely affect the Bulldogs mentally, so the April 24 practice focused on fun and included two-on-two and four-on-four matchups. The players responded with a 25-17, 25-14, 25-10 victory over Orange Glen.
“We weren’t really playing bad. Our serve-receive was great,” Klauda said. “It was nice to see that they could find the fun again on the court.”
Ramona struggled early in the match against the Patriots.
“They were able to change that,” Klauda said. “They did a fantastic job from that point on.”
Outside hitter Josh Spieker, who led the Bulldogs with 12 kills against Orange Glen, had eight of those kills in the first game.
“The majority of the offense came from Josh Spieker in game one,” said Klauda.
Middle blocker Levi Vermeulen, who is starting in place of Stickney, had one of his kills in the second game and the other three in the third game. The Bulldogs’ other starting middle blocker, Reed Hallams, had seven kills and only two hitting errors. Outside hitter Josh Plunkett had five kills and two errors.
Opposite hitter Cody Kealy had only three kills — one in each game — but had four serving aces and served for 14 points. Setter Isaiah Spieker had 32 assists. Libero Jake McLaughlin led the team with seven digs; Klauda noted that the lack of digs was due to Ramona’s offensive strength rather than to any defensive lapse.
“We actually did a pretty good job of keeping them off-balance,” Klauda said. “We served pretty tough.”
The Bulldogs close out their regular season Thursday at home against San Pasqual, which will be Senior Night. Saturday’s CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting will determine Ramona’s subsequent opponents.