Morro Bay volleyball coach James Bueno brought in some hired guns for practice this week.
He wanted to prepare his team for the thundering kills of Santa Ynez outside hitter Blake Lockhart with a chance at a shared Los Padres League title on the line. So Bueno brought in a handful of former players who are now playing in college to help at practice and adjusted the defense to gear up to stop the 6-foot-5 senior. The strategy worked at times on Tuesday at Morro Bay, but Lockhart proved to be too good, too often.
Lockhart had 38 kills for the the Pirates from the south and Santa Ynez pulled out a five-game win (16-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-23, 15-13) to finish the regular season as undefeated Los Padres League champions.
“He is a go-to guy,” Santa Ynez coach Chip Fenenga said. “When the chips are down and it’s tight, you can go to him. But Morro Bay blocked him a lot tonight, better than just about anybody.”
The game played out exactly the way it should have, close till the very end.
Both teams dominated the Los Padres League all season. Coming into the match at Morro Bay High, Santa Ynez was 10-0 and Morro Bay was 9-1. Morro Bay had only lost three games all season, each to Santa Ynez, and two of Santa Ynez’s lost games came against Morro Bay in a five-game win in early April.
Early in Tuesday’s match, Morro Bay fed of the energy from a packed student section that reigned chants onto the court all night. Lefty senior Dustin Limon had four kills, a block and an ace to get things rolling for Morro Bay as it won the first game.
Then the masher from Santa Ynez showed up in a big way.
After four kills in the first set, Lockhart came alive in the second set with eight more kills to even it up at 1-1. Lockhart had to pick up the slack because middle hitter Jackson Gay, third on the team in kills, did not play.
Limon struggled at times late in the match, but classmate Spencer Cecil and junior Dexter Marquardt (12 kills, 10 digs, four blocks) picked up the slack to take a 2-1 lead. Cecil led Morro Bay in kills (18) when it was all over.
Then came the pivotal fourth.
“Not that they eased up, but they relaxed a little bit,” Bueno said. “But they are still learning.”
The crowd exploded with every point as Morro Bay tried to stage a dramatic six-point comeback in the fourth, but Santa Ynez held firm to force a fifth.
In the fifth, Cecil hit the net on the follow through of a kill attempt that would have tied the game at 12. He was so heated at the referee that he earned a yellow card.
Morro Bay squared it at 13 with a big kill from Limon, who finished the match with 16 kills, two aces and five blocks. But fittingly, back-to-back big hits from Lockhart gave Santa Ynez the final two points and its second-straight undefeated league title.
“A game like this is only going to help us in (the playoffs),” Bueno said. “It doesn’t help our seeding, but it will help our motivation.”
Morro Bay (19-3, 9-2 Los Padres) ends the regular season with a match against Arroyo Grande at the CCT Tournament and will wait to see where they end up when the CIF-Southern Section releases the playoff seeding for Divison 4 later this week.
“This is the strongest willed team that I have ever had,” Bueno said. “The 2012 team that I had that was undefeated were big and strong. These guys aren’t as big, but they have so much heart.”