DP finds right combination, sweeps San Marcos in league opener

After playing with different lineup combinations and taking some lumps against a tough preseason schedule, the Dos Pueblos boys volleyball team had things figured out for its Channel League opener against crosstown rival San Marcos on Thursday night.

The Chargers played solid in all phases of the game and swept the previously unbeaten Royals, 25-14, 25-13, 25-22, at Sovine Gym.

Gabe Burdick was a hitting force on the left side, blasting 12 kills on 20 attempts, and he rattled San Marcos at the service line with five aces, including two in a row to end the second set.

Mansai Connor buried seven balls on 13 swings in the middle, and libero-turned-setter Keaton Arutian ran an efficient offense.

“We’re good. We’re just trying to play around with our lineup a bit and figure out what works,” DP coach Chris Hughes said of the 1-4 preseason. “I think I really like what I saw tonight; I think it’s definitely working with the win tonight. And, we’re learning how to compete.”

He added: “The experience of tough matches, playing in the Best of the West in San Diego, I think it helped us tonight being confident knowing we can play with the best teams in California and compete against the teams in our league.”

Burdick agreed. “We played tough teams in pre-league, so I think we’re more prepared than most teams.”

Burdick gave Dos Pueblos a lethal weapon on the left side. He also combined on some blocks.

“Gabe’s leadership is more by his play and it showed tonight,” said Hughes. “He was the man. He was everywhere.”

Hughes also was happy with the leadership of Arutian. “Keaton does it with running the show. Whether it’s offensively or defensively, he’s getting the guys going,” said the coach.

Dos Pueblos was leading 12-9 in the first set before it went on a 5-0 run to pull away from the Royals.

In the second set, Connor had four kills and combined with Arutian for a big block during a four-point run. Arutian also had a solo block and Burdick served up three aces.

The Chargers recorded 10 aces on the night.

“I thought we were prepared but clearly we weren’t,” said San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz. “They served really well against us and had us out of system most of the night. We made a lot of blocking errors. There were just a lot of things that were compounding on each other.”

Jack Shields led San Marcos (8-1, 0-1) with 7 kills on eight attempts.

The Royals started to show signs of life in the third game, taking a 21-17 lead after a Kevin Hempy kill. But Dos Pueblos battled back and tied the score at 20-20 when Arutian surprised the Royals by going over on two.

Arutian came up huge again at 21-21, serving up back-to-back aces.

A Shane Hauschild kill brought the Royals to within one, 23-22. But Dos Pueblos scored the next points to complete the sweep. Kevin Pappas hit through a block for the 24th point and Burdick put away the final point on a transition play after a DP block.

“I thought they played a pretty error-free game,” Kuntz said of the Chargers. “They were on their ‘A’ game and we just weren’t.”