San Clemente middle blocker Brandon Hopper hits the ball past two Redondo Union blockers during Tuesday's first-round playoff match. The Tritons won in 4 games.

San Clemente needs time to click, but then dominates


SAN CLEMENTE – With the expectations that come with being the higher seed in its first-round matchup, San Clemente’s boys volleyball team certainly showed nerves at the outset of its CIF-SS Division 1 match against Redondo Union.

A first set loss, however, was the antidote needed to overcome those jitters, as the Tritons controlled the net through the next three sets to take a 3-1 victory, 19-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-17, on Tuesday at San Clemente High.

San Clemente spread the ball around, but middle blocker Matt August’s presence was key. He led the Tritons with 11 kills and had a hand in five blocks for points.

“We really honed in on pressing over and watching the hitters’ arm and just blocking the ball,” August said. “We did really well toward the outside.”

Equally as vital for the Tritons was opposite Paul Castellana, who pitched in with 10 kills. Outside hitter Brandon Hopper also posted 10 kills for San Clemente.

Utilizing the 6-2 system, Markus McGuire and Matt Merrill complemented each other nicely and finished with 25 and 20 assists, respectively.

But it took a set for it all to start clicking. While the Tritons kept pace for most of the first set, the Sea Hawks took advantage of that early anxiety.

Middle blocker Lucas Lossone pounded six kills, while fellow middle Dominic Cangialosi added five for Redondo Union (20-13) in the first set. Setter Sean-Michael Cramer paced the set with 13 of his 35 assists.

“We were just nervous a little bit,” August said. “(After the first set) we really got our heads into it. We wanted to come out and play with fire and we did. We played really well.”

San Clemente (27-6) came out fired up in the second set, winning five of the first six points to set the tone. August and Dominic Brousard kept Redondo hitters at bay with a pair of blocks each, while a balanced attack led to three kills each for August, Castellana and Hopper.

The Sea Hawks were plagued by 10 errors in the third set. August and Castellana powered the Tritons with four kills each in the fourth set in leading to the victory.

“We serve areas to try and get two blockers, and if we could just get ourselves to get our hands in good position, we’re pretty formidable with our height,” Tritons coach Ken Goldstone said. “We got that going in the second game and that got our confidence going.”

San Clemente will travel to Studio City to play Harvard-Westlake in the second round on Thursday. The Wolverines earned a first-round upset of Santa Barbara in five sets.

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