By Joe Naiman
After a 7-1 start to the season, Ramona High School’s boys volleyball team lost five consecutive matches before the Bulldogs won three of their next four.
Eight of those nine matches were played during a five-day period, March 19-23, when the Bulldogs lost two non-league contests before playing six matches in the La Jolla Tournament.
“It was a long, weird week,” said coach Jeff Klauda.
The Bulldogs traveled to University City for their March 19 match.
“We just didn’t look ready to play,” Klauda said. “I think we were so focused on trying to take the next big step, we just kind of backpedaled and we forgot all the little things you have to do to win games.”
The Centurions opened the match with 25-23 and 25-21 victories before Ramona avoided a sweep with a 25-23 triumph in the third game.
“As the match went on we kind of picked up,” Klauda said.
University City’s 25-17 victory in game four concluded the match.
Josh Spieker led the Bulldogs with 20 kills, Lance Stickney added 10 kills, Reed Hallams had seven kills, and Cody Kealy contributed six kills. Setter Isaiah Spieker had 46 assists.
“Isaiah did a really good job of, for the most part, spreading around, getting the middles involved,” Klauda said.
Hallams and Stickney are middle blockers, Josh Spieker is an outside hitter, and Kealy is Ramona’s opposite hitter.
Ramona hosted Westview on March 21 but lost in three games. The first game had a 25-14 final score.
“About half the game was good. We were playing well, and we were right there point for point with them,” Klauda said. “We just couldn’t sideout for the rest of that first game.”
The Bulldogs had a 14-7 lead in the second game before the Wolverines went on a run of points. Westview had a 24-21 lead before a Ramona sideout. Isaiah Spieker’s next two serves tied the game, but he then missed his serve to give Westview game point. The Wolverines won the ensuing point for a 26-24 victory and took the third game by a 25-19 score.
Josh Spieker led the Bulldogs with 12 kills against Westview. He had 35 swings. Stickney had nine swings and Hallams had three.
“There’s just no way you can expect to win when you get your middles 12 swings in the whole match,” Klauda said.
The March 22-23 La Jolla Tournament began with pool play; for Ramona those March 22 games were played at La Jolla High School.
“Our pool was pretty rough,” Klauda said.
Ramona’s first opponent was Oaks Christian High School from Westlake Village, who took a 25-15, 25-13 victory over the Bulldogs.
“We played better fundamentally than we did on Tuesday (March 19), but Oaks Christian had two guys who were just studs,” Klauda said.
“I was pretty happy with the way we played,” Klauda said. “I wasn’t upset with losing that game like I was at UC.”
Centennial High School of Las Vegas was Ramona’s next opponent.
“They were athletic and they had one kid who just hit a heavy, heavy hard ball,” Klauda said. “Ninety percent of the offense was that one guy.”
Centennial defeated Ramona in 25-23 and 25-14 games. “That guy burned us,” said Klauda.
As the third-place team in their three-team pool, the Bulldogs concluded March 22 play with a cross-pool match against another third-place pool team. Ramona faced San Dieguito Academy and defeated the Mustangs in 25-15 and 25-19 contests.
“We played pretty well,” Klauda said. “For the most part we made them earn their sideouts.”
The pool play results placed Ramona in the Copper Division for the March 23 bracket matches and sent the Bulldogs to Point Loma High School for the Saturday play. Ramona opened that day’s matches with a 25-14, 25-19 loss to Hart High School of Newhall.
“They had one middle who jumped extremely well,” Klauda said.
The loss meant that Ramona’s best possible Copper Division finish would be fifth place. The Bulldogs’ route to that position began with a 25-22, 25-21 win over Steele Canyon.
“Played okay,” Klauda said. “We took better swings overall.”
The win over the Cougars gave Ramona a fifth-place match against Lincoln High School of San Diego. The Bulldogs required three games to take fifth place.
“The first one was rough,” Klauda said. “We made some hitting errors, we made serving errors.”
Lincoln had a 25-15 lead in the first game before Ramona closed the score to 25-22. The Bulldogs then missed their serve to give the Hornets a 25-22 victory. Ramona then took fifth place with 25-19 and 15-9 victories.
“It was a real up and down week, but it was a good learning experience,” Klauda said.
The tournament results left Ramona with a season record of 10-7. The Bulldogs will host Valley Center in a Valley League match Thursday in their final contest prior to Spring Break.
“I’m hoping we can get a few things worked out,” said the coach.