Merrill plays big role as San Clemente sweeps No. 9 Trabuco Hills


SAN CLEMENTE — San Clemente’s Kyle Merrill worried his performance Tuesday night against No. 8 Tesoro might have been a fluke.

The backup outside hitter smacked 13 kills that night while filling in for Bryce Curtis, who sprained his ankle.

Merrill started Thursday against No. 9 Trabuco Hills and pulverized any thought of the word “fluke” with a team-high 15 kills in San Clemente’s 25-23, 25-21, 25-22 South Coast League win.

“It’s incredible,” Merrill said. “I never really got a chance to get in the game like this, so being able to just go in and get so many kills and be such a help to my team was just a really great experience.”

The Tritons were also missing USC signee Aaron Strange, who also hurt his ankle Tuesday. San Clemente coach Ken Goldstone said Strange could be back within a few matches, but Curtis might be out for the rest of the season.

It appears the Tritons (15-7, 4-1) have a more-than-capable fill-in.

“(Merrill is) a real solid player in practice. Bryce was playing so well that he really wasn’t able to get his opportunity,” Goldstone said. “So now he’s got his opportunity and he’s coming on strong for us.”

Jess Hunt added 10 kills and middle blockers Kyler Presho-Hartung and Dillon Waikle combined for 13 kills.

Neither team led by more than five points, with both sides trading sideouts more often than not. The score was tied, 19-19, in the first and second sets and tied, 12-12, in the third before San Clemente stole momentum with a 10-5 scoring run.

Concordia signee Jack Flynn led Trabuco Hills with 22 kills — 17 coming in the final two sets. Derek Stoker added nine kills and nine digs.

The Tritons towered over Trabuco Hills (19-5, 3-2) with three players at 6-foot-8, but after the match Mustangs coach Dave Hollaway marveled at the Tritons’ passing.

“That’s probably the best I’ve seen them pass,” he said. “ … If they pass like that, they’re going to be really hard to beat.”

The Mustangs host Dana Hills on Tuesday and the Tritons get a week off before traveling to play the Dolphins next Thursday.

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