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THOUSAND OAKS — After sweeping its last two opponents, the Thousand Oaks boys volleyball faced a challenge in No. 1-seeded Servite on Saturday night in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 semifinals.
Servite used strong serving and quick hits to sweep the Lancers 25-21, 25-19, 25-17 and advance to the championship game.
The Friars will take on Tesoro in the Division 2 final Saturday, May 14.
“When you play these teams, they’re not gonna give it to you,” Lancers coach Seth Burnham said. “Our guys know that and I think it’s just one more lesson to be like, look, this is what it takes to get to that next level and win the CIF title.”
As the Friars (27-10) oscillated between fierce jump serves and well-placed float serves, Thousand Oaks (27-10) struggled to keep its system flowing, despite getting out to a 5-0 lead in the first game.
Libero Braden Gonzales, who had 397 digs going into Saturday night’s match, sacrificed his body throughout the three games, scampering across the court to dive for digs. He logged 10 digs against Servite.
“Braden is the foundation of our defense,” setter Alex Torreblanca said. “He’s a brilliant player. He’s always there to motivate us to dive after every ball and do as much as he does and keep up.”
Thousand Oaks kept pace early in the second game, but Servite put together a five-point scoring run later on to pull ahead, 20-15. A Lancer serve went short to set up Servite’s game point, then a big swing from Jack Morikawa produced the game-winning kill.
The Lancers battled in the third, going point-for-point with the Friars and even took a 16-15 lead on kills from Oliver Herron (six kills, two blocks) and Tyler Linville (nine kills, two blocks, three digs).
Servite, with its roster of 23 players compared to Thousand Oaks’ 15, recaptured momentum and used a six-point scoring run to complete the sweep.
“We knew that we were going up against a tough team,” Torreblanca, who had 26 assists, said. “I think that we had some serving issues, but ultimately, they’re a great team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the finals next week.”
Thousand Oaks boys volleyball continues to grow under the guidance of Burnham, who won his first Marmonte League title with the group this season and the program’s first league title in at least 10 years.
“It obviously stings when you go down,” Burnham said. “But our guys have gone through a lot this year and I’m super proud of what they’ve done and how they played.”