Top-seeded Servite went through local schools Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara to win the 37th annual Dos Pueblos Invitational boys volleyball tournament on Saturday at the Thunderdome.
Led by all-around player and tournament MVP Madison Hayden and Princeton-bound setter Tim Favreau, the Friars gutted out a 25-23, 28-26 win over the host Chargers in the quarterfinals and knocked off the Dons 25-21, 25-17 in the tournament championship match.
Servite, ranked No. 2 in CIF Division 1, was coming off a runner-up finish at last weekend’s Best of the West Tournament in San Diego, losing to top-ranked Loyola in two sets.
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The Friars wore a four-leaf clover patch on their shorts, appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day. But with the talent and size they possess and their speed of play, they didn’t need much luck to claim the title.
In the final, Servite used back-to-back kills by 6-5 middle Sam Hunt and consecutive hitting errors by the Dons to rally from a 7-6 deficit to take the lead for good in the first set. The lead got as high as six points (20-14) before the Dons cut it 21-18 on a kill by Casey Slaught. The Friars finished the game on kill by 6-7 middle Kyle Palmer.
Servite took control of the second set early and never looked back.
“It was bittersweet at the end, but our boys fought pretty hard,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said. “They won the serving and passing battle. We know we have to go back and improve a little bit and be more aggressive in our serving, but, overall, I was pleased with our performance.”
Arneson praised the play of Ryan Worley, who’s moved to an outside hitting position after filling in as the setter last season. He also singled out setter Gavin Trudeau and middle Holden Ploch.
On Servite, Arneson said, “They’re pretty balanced and they’re physical,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said. “They have the kind of size you see in Division 1 (college programs), and at times they were overpowering us. We were too tentative and we didn’t let loose and go after serves and we didn’t hit the ball as they did.”
Servite had a fight on its hands in the quarterfinals against Dos Pueblos. Charger middle Mansai Connor was nearly unblockable, Gabe Burdick, Kevin Pappas and Jackson Wopat played well at the net and the defense got its hands on several Friar attacks.
After a Connor kill made it 23-24, the Chargers dug a ball and had a chance to tie the score. Unfortunately, the second ball was bumped too far outside and they couldn’t deliver a potent spike. Servite got an easy dig and Hayden smashed a ball from the back row for the winning point.
The Chargers continued to play at a high level in the second set and built a 17-12 lead. But Servite battled back went ahead 24-23 on a kill by Hayden. DP took a 25-24 lead and had a swing to force a third game after a dig, but Keaton Arutian’s surprise attack on a two-ball landed long, tying the score at 25-all.
A Connor solo block knotted the score at 26 before Hayden finished off the Chargers with back-to-back kills.
“That’s the second best team in California, and we’re right there,” an excited DP coach Chris Hughes said. “I told my guys, all we want to do is be able to compete, and we can compete with the best, so that’s going to help us now and definitely in the long run. The second thing I told the guys is, ‘You’re getting better.’ We’re right there with those guys and it’s basically bunch for bunch, hit for hit, block for block.”
The Chargers’ tournament performance showed Hughes the team is gelling.
“That’s what we’ve been working on all season,” he said. “For the last week, we have been really gelling. All day long they were really disciplined, got to their spots got low, wanted the ball and they made plays. And, they have the feeling they can win.
“When we’re making plays, we have a chance to win. We had the chance to win (against Servite). As a coach, that’s what I want.”
After escaping DP, Servite beat Oak Park, the No. 1-ranked team in Division 2, 25-14, 25-21, in the semifinals.
Santa Barbara knocked out three-time defending tournament champion Bellarmine Prep in the other semifinal.
Trudeau spread the offense around, Ploch buried several balls in the middle and the blockers adjusted to the Bells’ 6-8 middle Kyle Suppes.
“We have to realize that we have to grovel and get down and dirty and fight, and outhustle teams because we don’t have the size,” said Arneson.
Suppes sparked a Bellarmine comeback in the second set with a couple of solo blocks — the second one tied the score at 20-20. But Santa Barbara kept its composure. The Dons regained the lead on a Bellarmine serving error and Carl Mendoza followed with an ace serve. Ploch ended the match by putting away an overset.
San Marcos was eliminated by Bellarmine Prep in the first round of the playoffs, 25-19, 25-16.
In other first-round matches, Santa Barbara routed Oaks Christian, 25-14, 25-15 and Dos Pueblos got revenge against Newbury Park, 25-17, 25-18. The Chargers lost a five-set non-league match to the Panthers earlier this season.
“That was really nice,” Hughes said. “Our guys were very excited to play them. We went through them pretty good. It’s a little revenge kind of thing but also we’re better than that team and we figured it out and it showed tonight.”
The all-tournament team consisted of Ploch and Trudeau of Santa Barbara; Suppes from Bellarmine Prep; Justin Parks of Oak Park; Phillip Friedman of Capistrano Valley and Favreau of Servite.