Normally, Jack Empey is spreading the wealth and setting up the rest of the Arroyo Grande High boys volleyball team for a kill courtesy of a pinpoint pass.
However, for a change of pace, the senior setter sometimes gets a little bit selfish.
As if the opposing team needed another weapon to worry about.
Empey recorded eight kills — deftly tipping the ball to a vacant area on the
Eagles’ second touch — in addition to his usual haul of 31 assists as Arroyo Grande topped Templeton 3-0 on the road Tuesday for its ninth straight victory.
“My dad taught me that one,” said Empey, who kept Templeton’s blockers on their heels the entire match by working all spots on the court. “I just do it to mix it up. I’m usually tight to the net so I can hit it down a little more, but it’s just to mix it up from the usual.”
All nine of Arroyo Grande’s wins have come in three sets, although Templeton fought until the last point in the 25-14, 25-20, 27-25 final.
“They have been the best in the area for at least the past four years,” Templeton senior Henri Cherry said, “so it’s always a little intimidating going into this game.”
The nerves showed early on.
Arroyo Grande (17-6) won six of the match’s first seven points and the final four of the first set, getting a pair of kills from Keanu Morrison and an ace from Andrew Midyett to close it out.
Templeton (14-7), which had won five straight matches, held brief leads in each of the final two sets and overcame an early 6-1 deficit in the third to tie the frame five different times.
But whether it was Morrison or Cameron Arnet on the outside, Midyett or Ronan Paulson up the middle, or Empey on his own, Arroyo Grande always won the point when it mattered most.
Arnet and Morrison both had nine kills, fellow outside hitter Conner Howard recorded five kills and five aces, and defensive specialist Ryan Meffert had six digs.
Paulson took advantage of short-range sets from Empey to blast seven kills, including one that put Arroyo Grande ahead 24-22 in the final set.
“We try to get our middles working because it opens everything else up,” Empey said. “We have two really good middles this year, Ronan and Andrew, and they both do a really good job.”
Templeton got a pair of kills from Taylor Burke that tied the score. A kill from Howard and an Arroyo Grande carry knotted things again at 25, when Cherry’s jump serve whistled long
and his kill shot couldn’t muscle its way through the opposing wall to end the match.
“We were double-blocking him and sometimes triple- blocking him, just doing anything we could to try and stop him,” said Empey of Cherry, a 6-foot-6 senior headed to play at UC Santa Barbara in the fall. “He’s huge.”
Cherry finished with nine kills and three blocks for the Los Padres League-leading Eagles.
Fellow senior and co-captain Jordan Scully had seven kills, and setter Michael Laharguh had 15
assists and a pair of aces, but it was not enough to topple the other Eagles squad, which is on its way to a third consecutive undefeated PAC 7 title.
“We could have played a lot better,” Cherry said. “We just came in very antsy because they’re a really good team.
“They’re just really solid — they don’t have a weak link. They can hit well, they
block well, they all serve well and they all pass well. They have a phenomenal program.”