Huntington Beach's Davey Kim digs a serve against Los Alamitos. The Oilers overcame a slow start and came away with a 3-1 Sunset League victory over the visiting Griffins.

Huntington Beach remains calm when pushed


HUNTINGTON BEACH – Playing with a target on its back has been a way of life for the Huntington Beach boys volleyball team.

At the outset of Wednesday’s Sunset League match, fifth-ranked Los Alamitos took aim and couldn’t miss, recording nine ace serves to win the opening set.

From there, the top-ranked Oilers found their comfort zone, taking the next three sets to beat the visiting Griffins, 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 25-13, and extend their match winning streak to 85.

The Oilers (21-0, 2-0) have lost just three sets all year.

“They were bombing the ball from the jump serve, (and) we didn’t pass the ball well. I think we got aced nine, 10 times,” Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti said of the first set. “They (Griffins) did a good job. I think that’s going to be the strategy against us: Take your shots from the service line, try to get them out of system and if you can, make plays.”

Pazanti said his players did a good job of “not panicking” against the Griffins (18-4, 1-1).

“As long as we can continue to stay poised and not panic, I think we’ll be all right,” he said.

The Oilers played without starting libero Blake Diamond and didn’t have junior outside hitter Sean Morrissey in the opening set. What they did have, according to senior Ben Vaught, is a trust in each other that they were going to find a way to victory.

Davis Gillett replaced Diamond in the lineup.

“When you’re the most prepared team, you don’t have anything to worry about,” Vaught said. “We prepare ourselves for everybody’s best shot at us.

“We all grew up playing with each other, some of us grew up playing on the sand together, and it is so tight right now, with who is the best or who is the backup, you can throw anybody out there (on the court) and I don’t think much would change.”

Cole Thompson led the Griffins with 14 kills. Austin Marriott and Harrison Knott had nine apiece and Teddy Howard added eight.

TJ DeFalco led the Oilers with 20 kills and 15 digs. His play in the back row was a huge factor in helping the Oilers claim the victory.

“Having him on the back row is like having an extra libero and an extra attacker,” Pazanti said. “We’re almost better when he’s on the back row.”

The teams meet again April 24 at Los Alamitos.

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