After opening the season with a third-place showing in the Tesoro Tournament on Feb. 18, the Huntington Beach High boys’ volleyball team came home to play in front of its own crowd for the first time on Wednesday.
The Oilers took the floor with four new starters playing a full season at the varsity level for the first time.
Oilers coach Craig Pazanti remarked that, at times, his team played really well in the home opener against Mater Dei, but consistency evaded Huntington Beach in a nonleague match that went the distance.
Joey Farney had a team-high 20 kills for the Monarchs, who rallied to defeat Huntington Beach 20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12.
A first-team selection at opposite in the Trinity League last season, Farney said that the win was a big confidence-builder for the Monarchs (6-2) after they struggled on the opening day of the Redondo Tournament on Friday.
“Coming back with this win was huge for us,” Farney said. “We got booted out on the first day, and we were just really bummed. We came back the second day, won all of those games, and then beating Huntington in a fifth set is just huge for us right now. It gives us a lot of mental focus and strength.”
Huntington Beach continues to have Long Beach State-bound Aidan Knipe run the show on offense. The senior setter had 58 assists, most of which went to two promising hitters with live arms.
Junior outside hitter Niko Colburn had a team-high 20 kills for the Oilers (4-2). Sophomore opposite Trent Douphner, a 6-foot-3 left-hander, added 19 kills and two service aces.
Huntington Beach led after the first and third sets, with Colburn providing the game-winning swing — an ace and a kill — in both games.
Late in Game 4, however, the Oilers were called for a lift and a net violation before Joey Santos came up with a kill to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
“Every match is important for us right now, and we’ve got to get better a little bit faster,” Pazanti said. “We’re getting out to leads and then letting teams back [into the match]. At the end, we’ve got to finish games.
“It wasn’t great. We played really well at some times, but we’ve just got to play a little more sustained. We’ve got to play a little more steady without the high highs and the low lows.”
One aspect of the game that Pazanti came away pleased with was his team’s passing, especially that of senior libero Mark Aparicio.
“Mark’s done a great job for us,” Pazanti said. “He’s been on varsity for four years, so he’s been through a lot. This is his first opportunity to really start and start at the libero spot.”
Ryan Green had 14 kills on .387 hitting for the Monarchs, and David Linkletter handed out 48 assists. Riding the momentum from winning Game 4, Mater Dei jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the fifth set.
“We knew that we wanted to get off to a good start,” Linkletter said. “We came out really strong and confident. The main thing that we did, I think, was we kept our communication every play.”
Nathan Goode had 10 kills, while Drake Goering contributed four kills and 3½ blocks for the Oilers.