By Joe Naiman
Valley League play will test the Ramona High boys volleyball team’s ability to compete with the top squads in the circuit.
The Bulldogs compete at Valley Center on Friday. They won their Valley League opener April 2 at Del Norte and played competitively April 4 in a four-game loss at Escondido.
“We played pretty well,” said coach Jeff Klauda. “It was encouraging. We’re getting better every time we come out.”
Ramona’s 1-1 league record after two matches was part of an overall 6-7 season mark. The Bulldogs’ match at Del Norte included a 25-20 loss in the second game, but 25-23 victories in games one and three and a 26-24 triumph in the fourth set.
“The guys played pretty well,” Klauda said. “It was the best defense I’ve seen from anybody all year long.”
In the fourth game the Nighthawks had a 23-20 lead before Ramona scored the next 2 points. Del Norte then obtained a sideout for a 24-22 lead and game point. After the Bulldogs obtained a sideout, right-side hitter Levi Vermeulen served for 3 points, including an ace to win the match.
“It was just fantastic to watch,” Klauda said. “He really did put some tough serves into play.”
The ace landed about six inches short of the back line.
“It wasn’t his hardest serve. It was just very well placed,” said the coach.
Vermeulen was a middle blocker last year and, earlier in the match, Klauda and assistant coach Connie Halfaker advised Vermeulen that he was out of position on defense.
“He was able to make the adjustment in the middle of the game,” Klauda said.
Playing right-side defense turned out not to be a problem for Vermeulen during one of the final points.
“He made three digs in that rally. That was a huge game momentum changer,” said Klauda.
Middle blocker Lance Stickney had 11 kills against the Nighthawks, outside hitter Davis Windes added 11 kills, and outside hitter Cody Kealy contributed 10 kills. Setter Isaiah Spieker provided 29 assists while libero Jake McLaughlin recorded 20 digs.
Escondido’s victory over Ramona was by scores of 25-22, 21-25, 26-24 and 25-21.
“We played them very tough,” Klauda said. “We just kind of had slow starts.”
Escondido had a 7-1 lead in the first game and a 10-2 advantage to start the fourth game.
“Games one and four we kind of had horrible starts,” Klauda said. “They (Escondido) were hot coming out those two games.”
Ramona overcame a 21-19 Escondido lead in the second game. The Bulldogs obtained a sideout after a rally in which Windes had three digs and then scored the game’s final 5 points from plays originating with serves by Spieker.
“We kept playing great defense,” Klauda said.
In the third game the Cougars had a 24-21 lead before Ramona tied the game with a sideout followed by Vermeulen’s two aces.
Stickney had 12 kills against Escondido and a .409 hitting percentage Windes, Kealy and middle blocker Trevor Johnson each had seven kills. Spieker provided 38 assists. Windes led the team with 20 digs.
Next week the Bulldogs will be playing in the Easter Invitational tournament in Las Vegas.
“It should be a good trip,” Klauda said.