The562’s coverage of Long Beach Volleyball in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
The 2023 boys’ volleyball season in Long Beach is looking like it may be something of a coronation for the Wilson Bruins, who entered Thursday’s match against visiting Millikan alone in first place and with a 13-1 overall record. Wilson was without star player Marek Turner, a 6-5 opposite hittier, as Turner is training with the U19 USA National team, preparing for a trip to Guatemala for the NORCECA Continental Championship.
Turner’s absence wasn’t much felt, however, as the Bruins were still good enough to pull a win over the Rams, 25-15, 25-11, 23-25, 25-19.
WIlson coach Chris Ceballos knows he’s got a rare group, with multiple college-bound talents. As such, he’s not just trying to win games he’s trying to win them in a certain way, and he didn’t love how his Bruins played Thursday.
“I thought the first two sets was some of the best volleyball we’ve played all year, getting the job done, and overall our defense was very scrappy,” he said. “That’s the kind of volleyball we want to be known for. But like always, we take our foot off the gas in set three. We shouldn’t be dropping that set.”
Setter Braden Pool-Harris did a great job spreading the ball around, with four hitters notching between seven and 15 kills. Junior Ian Nolte, an Ohio State commit, had 15 kills, five digs, and an ace in the win for the Bruins.
“I thought we came out really strong and showed a very good level of volleyball,” said Nolte. “Then that third set, you know, we just kind of let go, and let our foot off the gas. It’s happened to us before and we’ve got to turn that around.”
After two sets that were all Wilson with a combined score of 50-26, the Rams came roaring back in the third, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. They would end up giving up the lead as Wilson went up 18-17, but the Rams were able to close it out riding the big arm of Jackson Cryst, who is a major collegiate prospect himself. Cryst had seven of his match-high 17 kills in that third set, as setter Logan Karkanen leaned on him frequently throughout the frame, setting it high enough that the lanky Cryst was able to hit over top of the Bruins block. Bryce Martinez backed up Cryst with five kills for the Rams.
The Bruins came roaring back in the fourth set, however. After the Rams jumped out to a 5-2 lead behind two kills from Cryst, a block from Cryst, and a block by Zachary Dahl, the Bruins responded with a 9-3 run sparked by big kills from Will Morrison (nine kills) and Nolte. Max Cherin and Aiden Jacobs (seven kills apiece) helped the Bruins close it out as they took a lead and never looked back en route to closing it out.
Ceballos said he liked the way his team rallied and got it going again in the fourth set.
“It’s about focus on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “Once we’re in the lead and we’re cruising, we just want to play on the offensive side. Those extra effort plays that’s got to be our identity we can’t stop making those plays.”
Nolte said he enjoyed getting to go back and forth with Cryst, in a showcase of two major underclass talents in the city.
“It’s a lot of fun, I’ve known Jackson for quite a few years we used to play together on club,” he said. “It’s just fun to have good competition, a sport is supposed to be fun. You’re out there having fun with your teammates or having fun across the net.”