Dos Pueblos earns CIF berth in a marathon with Royals

With an automatic CIF playoff berth on the line in a rivalry match, the Dos Pueblos and San Marcos boys volleyball teams left everything on the court in their Channel League finale Thursday night.

With the crowd on its feet and screaming, DP substitute John Ellsworth blocked a San Marcos attack for the last point for an exhausting and emotional 25-23, 22-25, 31-29, 18-25, 17-15 Chargers win over the Royals at Sovine Gym.

The victory, combined with a winning a tie-breaking coin-flip with Ventura, gives DP (5-3, 16-11) the No. 2 playoff berth from the Channel League. Ventura, also 5-3, will go as the No. 3 team.

San Marcos (14-9, 4-4) drops to fourth place and is expected to petition for an at-large berth in the CIF Division 1 playoffs, which begin next week.

Thursday’s match was like a roller-coaster ride, with the teams experiencing plenty of ups and downs, and twists and turns in the hot DP gym.

In the wild third set, DP built a 23-14 lead only to have San Marcos fight back and go on a five-point run to go up 25-24. Jack Shields and Spencer Johnson combine on a block and Ben McKenzie delivered back-to-back kills to put the Royals in the lead.

Basketball standouts Jay Larinan and Mansai Connor restored some momentum for DP with consecutive kills to make it 26-25.

The teams traded leads until DP went on a three-point run to win the game. Gabe Burdick hit a ball off the block to tie the score at 29-29, a San Marcos hitting error put the Chargers up 30-29 and Burdick tipped the ball past the block to finish the set.

Jackson Kunz rallied the Royals in the fourth set. He blocked a DP overpass for the final point in a 25-18 win.

Jack Shields, who had a career night in the middle with 16 kills, and Ben McKenzie got San Marcos off to a 3-0 start in the fifth set. But DP’s Burdick rallied his team with a kill and back-to-back service aces.

A DP hitting error and an ace by Kunz gave the Royals another three-point lead at 6-3. A service error killed the scoring run. San Marcos hurt itself with five service errors in the deciding set.

Nevertheless, the Royals had chances to win the match. A brilliant one-handed dig by libero Kyle Estabrooks followed by a Spencer Johnson kill gave them a match point at 14-13.

Conner answered for the Chargers and a San Marcos hitting error gave them a match point at 15-14.

Johnson kept the Royals alive at 15-15 with his game-high 20th kill of the night.

A Larinan kill gave DP a sideout and match point.

San Marcos set the ball to the left side and Ellsworth slid over from his middle blocker spot and rejected the spike to end the marathon.

“Ellsworth has been working on his blocking all year, and when does he deliver?” DP coach Chris Hughes asked, “At the end of the match.”

Burdick led a balanced Charger attack with 19 kills. Larinan had 14 kills, Conner 11 and Carson Pierce, Preston Bies and Jacob Badish contributed three apiece. Badish handed out 54 assists.

McKenzie added 12 kills for the Royals, and Estabrooks played an outstanding match at libero with 22 digs.