Esperanza snags TOC title from Mira Costa

Esperanza junior Steven Saddler, No. 11, is in the middle of the Aztecs victory celebration following match point on Saturday. The Aztecs defeated Mira Costa in the championship match. (Presidio Sports Photos)

Energy was the name of the game for Esperanza on Saturday, jolting the Aztecs to a championship at the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions in Santa Barbara.

Esperanza finished off a 4-0 weekend with a 25-23, 25-20, 25-23 sweep of Mira Costa in the title match.

Mira Costa's Karl Acres looks for an opening around Esperanza blockers Jake Johnson, left, and Andrew Benz, right.

“Playing Mira Costa was awesome. That’s what we were looking for all weekend,” said Jake Arnitz. “The boys came out, we played great. We just had a lot of fight and we wanted this game more than anything.”

Although Mira Costa was never more than a few points behind in any set, the Aztecs held sway throughout the match.

“I just think we played every point like it mattered,” noted Esperanza head coach Isaac Owens.

Arnitz recorded 17 kills and 4 1/2 blocks in the championship match. John Oxnard posted eight kills for Esperanza and Darren Sorrell added seven kills and three blocks.

Owens singled out Blake Auerbach for his new role as the team’s primary setter. Auerbach took over that role three weeks ago and the Aztecs haven’t lost since.

The host Dons started the tournament well with two wins but finished with two losses on Saturday, including a five-game setback to Buchanan in the third-place match. Buchanan, which Mira Costa beat in four earlier in the day, topped Santa Barbara 25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12.

The Dons took an early lead at two sets to one, but Buchanan leaned on outside hitter Timothy Moses to mount a comeback.

“We’re a small team so we got to make sure our opponents earn their points and we were sometimes making errors when we should have kept them in play,” explained Dons head coach Chad Arneson.

Numbers wise, Sam Cohen and Casey Slaught provided the Dons’ firepower in their last match. Cohen posted a team-high 17 kills and Slaught collected 14. Holden Ploch and Nick Clark added five kills each.

Santa Barbara’s senior setter Gavin Trudeau represented Santa Barbara on the all-tournament team.

Mansai Conner

Mansai Conner of Dos Pueblos skies for a hitting attempt in the Chargers' final match of the tournament.

Dos Pueblos defeated Thousand Oaks in the seventh place game to complete the Chargers’ best showing at the TOC in over five years.

The Chargers lost to Royal 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 in their morning match before coming back to beat the Lancers 25-21, 25-23, 27-29, 25-22.

“We just passed better in that last game and were just more consistent,” said Dos Pueblos senior Gabe Burdick.

Burdick recorded a team-high 22 kills and Mansai Conner converted 13 kills on 23 attempts.

Jackson Wopat had four of the team’s 12 blocks, which were instrumental in the Chargers’ defensive approach.

“They had a really good outside hitter,” explained Chargers head coach Chris Hughes. “But we also have Jordan Foster in the middle at 6’5″ and Jackson Wopat at 6’5″ on the opposite blocking their best player. Well, when you have your two best blockers blocking their best hitter, you can do a lot of good stuff.”

Senior captain Keaton Arutian was named all-tournament for Dos Pueblos.

“It was good to play tough games the whole way through. We played well,” said Burdick.

San Marcos sophomore Shane Hauschild makes a dig for the Royals on Saturday.

San Marcos was bested by Santa Margarita and Long Beach Wilson on Saturday. The Royals’ 25-21, 26-24, 25-19 loss to Long Beach came in their final match.

“Outstanding competition,” said San Marcos head coach Roger Kuntz. “When you get to play Mira Costa, Valencia, last year’s national champion Santa Margarita, and then Long Beach Wilson, I mean, we didn’t have an easy road.

“However, I thought that our outside played well throughout the course of the tournament. I thought our serve-receive and passing was very solid. Our blocking was non-existent.”

The Royals and Chargers meet in a Channel League match on Tuesday.

Last year’s champion, Santa Margarita, topped Ventura in the 13th place game 25-19, 25-16, 25-18.

Newport Harbor defeated Royal 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 26-24 for fifth place.

For a complete list of scores from Friday and Saturday, CLICK HERE