Despite dropping the first two sets of its CIF-SS Division 2 quarterfinals match against Long Beach Wilson, the San Marcos High boys volleyball team still believed victory was within reach.
When sophomore Jack Wilson’s 15th and final kill clinched the grueling five-set match 23-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-12 for the Royals, that confidence was rewarded.
“We knew we were able to compete with them. We knew we were better than them,” Wilson said. “We just played our game and came back.”
In the first set, San Marcos was cruising with a 23-18 lead when the visiting Bruins pulled off a spectacular run, claiming seven straight points to take a 1-0 set lead.
For many teams that drastic momentum shift would be too much to overcome, but the Royals showed the resolve to take the long road back and overcame a 2-0 deficit for the first time this season.
“This is the first time I’ve had this team where we’ve been down 0-2 and really came back strong with a tremendous amount of character and heart to close out a match,” said San Marcos High coach Roger Kuntz.
One of the keys to victory for San Marcos was the tremendous play of lefty opposite Luke Walker, who befuddled the Long Beach WIlson block throughout the match on his way to 17 kills.
Walker and San Marcos setter Hansen Streeter flashed incredible chemistry throughout the match, especially in key moments.
“Hansen and I we’ve played together since we were little kids. We’ve been on the same club team. He’s always been my setter. He’s always been my beach partner,” Walker said. “It’s our whole team. I think we have the best chemistry out of any team. I’ve known these guys for a long time and they’re all nice. There are no personality problems and no egos.”
After faltering again in the late stages of set two, San Marcos finally put together a complete game in set three. A cross-court spike by Wilson followed by Aiden Pazier cleaning up an errant Long Beach Wilson pass, put San Marcos ahead 14-11 and forced a timeout by the Bruins.
The Royals never looked back from there as they closed set three strong and carried that momentum into set four, where they took a 20-12 lead on an ace serve by Zach Willbanks, who was once again a dominant force on the outside and finished with a match-high 19 kills.
A solo block by Pazier clinched set four for San Marcos and forced a fifth and final set.
Set five went back and forth. A kill by Willbanks put San Marcos ahead 13-12 and the Royals reached match point when Long Beach Wilson hit into the net.
When Wilson’s final spike proved too much for the Bruins to handle, the San Marcos bench exploded in celebration.
“I just knew I had to put it away. I knew it was the last point,” Wilson said. “If I didn’t put the ball away, who knows what could have happened.”
San Marcos will travel to Tesoro for a semifinal match on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m.