Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan wins regional volleyball title

IRVINE -- For all the powerful spikes Tim Moses has punched for Buchanan High this year, his last one Saturday night wasn't a highlight-reel kill.

Moses reached above the net with his left hand, kind of waved at the ball and sent it to the floor on the other side of the net.

"I got the kill. It doesn't matter how it looked," the junior middle blocker said.

It wasn't pretty, but that point clinched top-seeded Buchanan's 3-2 comeback victory over No. 2 Otay Ranch-Chula Vista for the Southern California Regional Division I championship at Irvine Valley College.

So, Buchanan baseball, move over, you've got company. That team won its second straight Central Section title Friday and is expected to be crowned national champs in June.

The Bears volleyball team (39-3), ranked No. 4 nationally, made its own solid case to capture the mythical national championship awarded by ESPN RISE.

"They've got my vote," said Otay Ranch coach Tony Fajardo after his team finished 32-8.

The Bears looked like they had blown their big chance, but found their rhythm and recovered to pull out a 24-26, 21-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-12 victory in front of a partisan Otay Ranch crowd that filled three-quarters of the stands.

"One thing about these guys is they always find a way to come back and win," Bears coach John Jay said after his team's 32nd consecutive victory. "They turned on another switch. We led at the start of every set. It was a matter of staying focused, putting the pedal down and finishing."

ESPN RISE plans to release its final boys volleyball poll on Monday.

"Because there is no clear-cut No. 1, our staff will take the time and evaluate everything over the weekend before making our decision on a national champion," said Kirstin Olsen, the volleyball editor of ESPN RISE. "I was hoping Buchanan would win. It will make our job easier."

Buchanan moved into the front-runner spot for a national title because No. 1 Mater Dei and No. 2 Santa Margarita both lost in the D-II semifinals and No. 3 Mira Costa failed to make the state tournament.

"It was a nightmare turned into a dream," said Jon Ferrari, whose heady setting helped bring back the Bears. "An insane win for everybody. No. 1. I can see it."

Taylor Gasman led the Bears with 13 kills, Dakota Smith had nine, Moses and Ben Harding eight apiece, Ferrari added 42 assists and freshman setter Aaron Samarin 13 digs and some timely aces.

Otay Ranch shocked the Bears early by controlling the net behind Frank Herrera and Nathaniel Allen, who combined for 21 kills and seven blocks.

"We finally figured things out, got more one-one-one matchups," Jay said.

The Bears got back in it by stopping the hitting errors that plagued them the first two sets. After a routine win in set 3, Gasman led the charge in the next set with five kills and two blocks.

Moses and Smith came through with three kills apiece in the deciding set. Samarin, hounded by the Otay Ranch fans for his blond hair and baby face, served out the final three points.

"Buchanan just kept playing, kept fighting," Fajardo said. "And that freshman with his jump serve. He didn't miss all night and limited our options."

This Buchanan season also will be remembered for the program's sixth section championship, a first as the No. 1 seed in the SoCal Regionals and a school record for victories.

And guess what? Bears coach Jay flashed a big smile thinking about next year. Buchanan could be back just as strong. The Bears lose three-year varsity co-captains Smith and Gasman.

That means five starters return, led by Bee All-Star Player of the Year candidate Ferrari, libero Samarin and this year's junior front-line trio of 6-2 Moses, 6-2 Harding and 6-4 Tyler Freeman.

"Tim and Taylor gave us great leadership, something we'll have to find," Jay said. "But I like what we'll have back -- experience in a lot of the key positions."

Buchanan's road to the SoCal Regional championship started with an unbeaten Tri-River Athletic Conference season and title. The Bears then knocked off rival Clovis West 3-1 for the section crown and earned the top seed and two home matches in the state playoffs. They crushed eighth-seeded San Gabriel 3-0 in the quarterfinals to open play, then took out No. 4 Granada Hills 3-1 in Thursday's semifinal round.