Nearing the midway point of the prep boys volleyball season, Righetti High had emerged as the clear-cut favorite in the PAC 7, albeit a somewhat surprising one in a historical context.
The question Tuesday night was which old standby — Arroyo Grande or San Luis Obispo — would put itself in the best position to possibly crash the Warriors’ changing-of-the-guard party. It was San Luis Obispo.
The Tigers swept a rivalry match against the visiting Eagles, 25-22, 26-24, 25-16, to take sole possession of second place in the league standings.
“It definitely gives us confidence,” San Luis Obispo middle blocker Michael Hansen said. “This is obviously an A.G. team that’s pretty good, so if we can beat them in three games we can pretty much beat anyone.”
Both San Luis Obispo County schools came into this season as entrenched dynasties along the Central Coast. The Tigers have won at least a share of all but one league title from the 2001 season through last year, with the lone exception being in 2008, when Arroyo Grande won it outright.
But that streak of banners between the two programs is in jeopardy of being snapped this season, as Righetti has handed both schools defeats earlier this season.
The Warriors remain unbeaten in the PAC 7 with a 5-0 record, owning a sweep of the Eagles (3-2) to the tune of 25-20, 25-21, 25-17, and a four-set victory over the Tigers (4-1), 25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 25-22.
San Luis Obispo will get another crack at Righetti in Santa Maria on April 28.
In Tuesday’s win, San Luis Obispo showed the poise of a contender, holding on to slim leads at all the crucial moments in the first two narrow sets, which featured a combined 27 ties and 13 lead changes.
The third set wasn’t nearly as close, as the Tigers never trailed and drove the nail into the coffin after getting out to a commanding 19-8 lead.
Hansen finished with a team-leading 10 kills and three blocks.
“He was putting the ball away all night,” Tigers coach Manny Carter said of the 6-foot-4 Hansen, who was also an all-county first-team honoree in basketball this year. “He’s been doing that for us this whole season. You’ve just got to kind of feed off him. He makes things happen.”
Teammate Nick Butier, who was an all-Southern Section Division 2 second-team selection at outside hitter a year ago, added eight kills, and Keilan Meertens distributed 33 assists.
John Shokohi had 15 digs for San Luis Obispo.
If the Tigers are to avenge the earlier loss to the first-place Warriors, they’ll have to commit fewer mistakes, Carter said. The first time around, they made nearly 40 hitting errors.
“We didn’t play our best when we played them the first time,” Hansen agreed. “If we come out fired up, I think we could beat them and share the title.”
Carter said he has been routinely impressed by Righetti since the start of the season, having gotten looks at the Warriors in tournament play.
If the Tigers can bring a polished consistency to their defense and passing, though, they could retain the claim to the championship, Carter said.
“I always thought Righetti was the team to beat,” Carter said, “but nobody seemed to want to believe me.
“But I think this is good for us, bouncing back from a loss like last week’s,” Carter said. “It was really tough on the guys, but hopefully (in the upcoming rematch), they’ll come in hungry.”
For Arroyo Grande, Kevin Glass had 20 assists, and Andrew Midyett had three blocks and four kills.