RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Ingredients were in place for a great season at San Marcos

It was the perfect ending, the winning point of San Marcos High’s epic 32-30 fourth-set victory at nine-time defending champion Santa Barbara for the Channel League boys volleyball title.

Team of the Month - San Marcos Volleyball

The Team of the Month Series is sponsored by Sansum Clinic of Santa Barbara (Presidio Sports Photo)

The Team of the Month Series spotlights great
examples of teamwork in the local sports community

Incredibly, the match-winning play involved the Royals’ “Big 3” of Baker Johnson, Christian Widmer and Shane Hauschild, standout seniors who have been starters since they were sophomores. First, Johnson made a spectacular one-handed dig of a driven ball. The ball caromed off the ceiling, but Widmer still managed to hand-set it and pushed it outside to Hauschild, who hammered a spike off a defender’s arms for the title-clinching point.

And the Royals went wild.

It was the Royals’ league finale and they finished on top, claiming their first title since 2003.

Presidio Sports is proud to recognize the San Marcos boys volleyball team as the Sansum Clinic Team of the Month.

“This group of seniors, we wanted it so bad,” said Hauschild after the match.

“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” Johnson said. “We worked so hard this whole season. To see that we finally won it, it’s so amazing.”

The Royals had high expectations going into 2014. They graduated just one senior after a CIF semifinal appearance last season and returned their decorated Big 3 – Hauschild was an All-CIF pick and league MVP last year while Widmer and Johnson were all-league first team honorees.

“I don’t think it’s any mystery that those three are the ones who have been the key to our success the last three years,” coach Roger Kuntz said. “It’s incredible having those three guys together. What is unique about them, more than anything else, is we hear in sports all the time, ‘We’re close and we’re family and this and that.’ Christian went to DP his freshman year and came over to San Marcos just to play with these two guys. They’d grown up together. He said, ‘I want to spend my high school career with my buddies.‘”

They’ve been the backbone, heart and soul of the squad.

And, “they’re very high-character guys,” added Kuntz.

The Royals also returned starters Cole Wenal and Taylor Mann in the middle and Sean Estabrooks at libero. They added skilled newcomer Nick Rockwell, a transfer from Arizona, and Jake Castanha emerged as a force in the middle when Mann went down with an injury.

“We didn’t miss a click with Jake filling that role,” said Kuntz, who added, “We have a very solid core of juniors who are in pivotal roles.”

Other contributors on the team are Joe Terre, Ben Hauschild, Greg Kronen, Emerson Pizzinat, Jake Pighetti, Connor Everman, and Diego Almanza.

San Marcos made a statement at the beginning of the season, winning the prestigious Redondo Union Tournament. They defeated four CIF-ranked teams and didn’t lose a set en route to the championship. Hauschild was named the tournament MVP.

“Associate head coach Dwayne Hauschild, assistant coach Kristen Kuntz and I knew at that point that we were a very good team and capable of great things this season,” said head coach Roger Kuntz.

The Royals vaulted to No. 1 in the Division 2 rankings and have stayed there the rest of the season.

San Marcos continued its winning ways in capturing the Dos Pueblos Invitational, beating Laguna Beach in the final.

“To win this talented 35-team local tournament, gave our fans so much to cheer for and put the Channel League teams on notice that we were legitimate this season,” Kuntz said. “What continued to impress me was our ability to win close matches and to establish a faster pace on our side of the net. We continued to have as much or more firepower than any other team, but our ability to control the ball was the key to our success.”

The Royals were without two outside hitters when it dropped a five-set match at Dos Pueblos in Channel League, ending a 19-match win streak.

They responded to the defeat by winning their next eight straight matches, including a thumping of DP in the return match.

“I’ve never seen a more focused group than I did in that match,” recalled Kuntz.

They lost twice in the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions but came back and beat Santa Barbara for the league title and took down Division 3 top-ranked South Pasadena in straight sets to end the regular season at 25-3

Now come the CIF playoffs. San Marcos will enter the Division 2 playoffs as the top-seeded team.

The goal is to bring a CIF championship back to San Marcos. The Royals last won it in 1999.

Kuntz said he changed the team’s whiteboard from the league schedule to a list of accomplishments: Channel League championship, Redondo Tournament championship, Dos Pueblos Invitational championship.

He purposely left the next line blank.

“There’s one more area for letters but it’s going to take five more wins to get it,” he told his team.

That would be another perfect ending.