Injuries imperil playoff hopes for Bulldog boys volleyball

Volleyball coach Jeff Klauda talks to the team during a time out. Sentinel photo/Bill Tamburrino
Volleyball coach Jeff Klauda talks to the team during a time out. Sentinel photo/Bill Tamburrino

By Joe Naiman

Ramona High School’s boys volleyball team will travel to Orange Glen High School for Thursday’s Valley League match, and then host Del Norte May 7, which will be Senior Night, before closing out its regular season May 9 at San Pasqual.

Ramona is in Division I for CIF playoff purposes, but a post-season berth became less likely when a pair of injuries within seven days of each other deprived the Bulldogs of both of their starting outside hitters.

“The season kind of fell apart, actually,” said coach Jeff Klauda.

The Bulldogs left for the Las Vegas Easter Invitational tournament with an 8-7 overall record, including a 3-1 Valley League mark, which placed only a game behind Escondido.

“We were looking like there was no way we would miss playoffs,” Klauda said. “We were playing okay.”

During the tournament the Bulldogs won four matches and lost six matches along with junior outside hitter Davis Windes. The Bulldogs returned home and lost two league matches and senior outside hitter Cody Kealy.

Carson High School made the trip from California to the Las Vegas tournament, and the Bulldogs and Colts began the tournament April 14 with a pool play match against each other.  Ramona prevailed by 25-23 and 25-17 scores.

Ramona’s next match was against Brophy Prep of Phoenix. The Broncos won eight of their 10 tournament matches, including all three in pool play, and the score against Ramona was 25-15, 25-15. The Bulldogs closed out pool play with a 25-16, 25-23 loss to Shadow Ridge High School in Las Vegas.

Shadow Ridge had defeated Carson, creating a three-way tie for second, but the tie-breaking criteria gave Ramona third in the pool and forced the Bulldogs to win two additional April 14 matches to be in the bracket with the top 24 teams the next day. Ramona began that quest against Silverado High School of Las Vegas and won the first game by a 27-25 score, but the Skyhawks came back with 25-22 and 19-17 victories.  The loss ensured Ramona a second-day bottom 24 bracket, so the Bulldogs did not need to play an additional April 14 match.

The second day began with pool play, and three of the four teams in Ramona’s pool were from the San Diego Section. The Bulldogs began that round with a 25-23 victory over Grossmont High School, overcoming a 5-point Grossmont lead, but the Foothillers had 25-22 and 15-12 triumphs in the match’s remaining games.

Grossmont is also in Division I for CIF playoff purposes.

“Losing to Grossmont hurt because they’re in our division,” Klauda said.

Ramona’s loss to Francis Parker was in two games, which ended with 25-16 and 25-19 results.

“The numbers looked the same, but the way we played was much better,” Klauda said.

Late in the second game Windes dove for a ball. He made contact with another player, and the ensuing examination revealed a broken hand, which will eliminate Windes from the court for the remainder of the season.

“Unfortunately there’s not really anyone to bring up from JV yet,” Klauda said.

Klauda started the season with a varsity roster of 10 players. Fewer than five of Ramona’s junior varsity players had any previous experience, and Klauda doubts that any of them are ready for the varsity level.

“We’re so thin at every position,” he said. “We couldn’t afford to lose any skill players.”

The Bulldogs concluded the April 15 pool play with a 25-22, 25-19 loss to Rancho High School of Las Vegas. The fourth-place pool finish put Ramona in a commensurate playoff bracket.

Ramona won all three of those playoff matches. The Bulldogs defeated Cimarron (New Mexico) High School by 26-24 and 25-21 margins, prevailed over Clark High School of Las Vegas in 25-13 and 25-10 games, and took 25-16 and 25-17 victories over Poly High School of Sun Valley, Calif.

The Bulldogs returned home April 16. Klauda gave the team April 17 and April 18 off from practice, as well as the weekend, and the team returned to the court for an April 21 practice. During warmup drills Kealy collided with another player and hurt his ankle. The x-ray revealed no break, but the swelling will likely keep him out of action for two weeks — that could be the remainder of Ramona’s season.

Ramona thus played the week’s two league matches with eight players. Right side hitter Levi Vermeulen was moved to one outside hitter position with freshman Armando Abarca taking over as right side hitter. Jake McLaughlin was moved from libero to the other outside hitter position with Taylor Holas receiving starting libero status. Ramona’s team also includes starting middle blockers Lance Stickney and Trevor Johnson, starting setter Isaiah Spieker, and defensive specialist Mason Pierce.

On April 23 the Bulldogs hosted San Pasqual in a league match. The Golden Eagles returned home with a 25-16, 25-18, 25-17 victory after utilizing their own outside hitters for attacks against Ramona.

“We had no answer,” said Klauda.

Ramona hosted Del Norte on April 25. The Nighthawks won by 25-16, 25-15 and 25-17 scores.

“Del Norte played a very good game,” Klauda said. “They played good defense and they set their outsides.”

The league losses left Ramona with an overall season record of 12-15 and a Valley League mark of 3-3.

   
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