A pair of ranked boys’ volleyball teams went toe-to-toe on Tuesday as the Millikan Rams (10-5, 2-0), ranked No. 6 in CIF-SS Division 3, survived a five-set thriller against the No. 10 Wilson Bruins (12-6, 1-1), holding on for a 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-13 win at Howard F. Lyon Gymnasium.
Senior Kyle Paulson led the Rams with 25 kills on the night, scoring six points in the fifth and final set to get his team over the top. Spencer Spalding added 15 kills and libero Andrew Elizarraraz chipped in 24 digs and six assists.
“I can compare last year to this year, and I think this year our guys believe a little bit more,” said Millikan head coach Matt Johnson after the win. “I’m pleased that they kept up the spirit with it. I liked the way they were getting after the ball, and when they do, good things happen.”
Paulson shared his coach’s sentiment in regards to how his team attacked the game from a mental side.
“We played Los Al in the final of our tournament last weekend, and we realized we’re good enough to play with any team, we’ve just got to mentally be there,” Paulson explained. “We pushed through today and kept our positive mindset for the most part.”
Wilson put on an impressive display on the road, led by 25 kills and three aces from junior Payne Lounsbery. Fletcher Garrett added eight kills while Carson McKeown had eight blocks in the middle.
“Definitely two even teams. It’s frustrating, it’s a win we were hoping to get,” said Wilson head coach Jeremy Cook. “Millikan played well, (Paulson) had a really good game… but again, it’s frustrating because it’s a win we were hoping for and we know how good our league is so you don’t want to drop too many of these.”
The host Rams looked to have control in the early going with an 14-9 edge in the opening set, but Wilson battled back to tie the frame at 21-all. The teams went back-and-forth in the closing stages as Paulson collected three straight kills for the Rams to set up set point at 24-23. It was Spalding who did the honors with the final tally to give Millikan a 1-0 lead in the match.
Wilson rebounded nicely in the next game, and took advantage of some Millikan miscues late on. The Bruins ended the set on an 8-4 run, getting three straight Rams hitting errors in that stretch to take it 25-21.
Set three was the most lopsided of the match, ending on a 5-0 Millikan run to pull away for the 25-17 finish. Spalding had four kills and an ace in the frame to help lead the way for the Rams, but again the visitors were able to respond. Wilson charged out of the gates in the fourth game, opening up a 12-4 advantage. Millikan was able to claw back within two at 21-19, but committed six service errors in the set as Wilson took it, 25-20.
In the decisive fifth set, neither team led by more than two points, and the match hinged on Paulson taking things over in the late going. With Millikan trailing 9-8, the 6-foot-6 senior took over the match, collecting kills on three consecutive points to put the Rams in the lead. He would score five straight points for the Rams after adding a kill and an ace, making it 13-12 Millikan. From there, it was Spalding who delivered the final kill in a 15-13 final set.
Millikan is back in action next Tuesday with another big home test against Lakewood while Wilson visits Jordan on Thursday.