Steven Weese lifts No. 5 Raiders over Santa Barbara in overtime thriller


Freshman Setter Steven Weese, 18, is rushed by the rest of the Moorpark men’s volleyball team after hitting the game winning kill against Santa Barbara City College, on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Moorpark ended the night victoriously, after winning the fifth set 18-16. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Danny Stipanovich

Confidence is soaring for the Moorpark Raiders after an overtime victory Wednesday night in their conference opener against the visiting Santa Barbara Vaqueros through five sets: 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18, 18-16.

Freshman setter Steven Weese pounded in the game-winning kill to lift the Raiders 18-16 in the fifth set. The bench cleared, and Weese had no time to catch his breath before his team engulfed him in a black mosh pit as “WEEEEESE” chants erupted from the crowd.

Freshman Steven Weese congratulates teammate, Freshman Tyler Maki, after a point against Santa Barbara City College during Moorpark's conference opener on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

With no backup setter, Weese was forced to play the majority of the game with little rest. He displayed his leadership and hustle, setting career highs in assists, 35, and digs, 12.

It seemed fatigue finally kicked in halfway through the fourth set. When floater heading towards Weese, he watched the ball float over his head and hit the ground, resulting in a Vaquero point.

However, the freshman setter did not let it break his concentration. He continued to set up his teammates until the very end when he took matters into his own hands instead.

“It just feels great,” Weese said on his game-winning kill.

“He had to run around like a track star all night … and when we had a chance to win, he took it into his own hands and put the ball away,” head coach Aaron Hedland said on Weese.

Dylan Haskell, sophomore middle blocker, led the Raiders (5-1) with 12 kills and 7 block assists. Sophomore outside hitters Brent Rasmussen and Jordan Moses contributed 11 and 10 kills.

Sophomore Jordan Moses sends a roll shot over to the opposing side during Moorpark's first conference game against Santa Barbara City College on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in the Moorpark College gym. Moses leads the team with 62 kills so far this semester. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Sophomore Sean Fitzpatrick, the Swiss Army knife for the Raiders, usually fills in as a backup setter for Weese, checked in as libero and led the Raiders with 14 digs.

Sophomore Libero Sean Fitzpatrick passes a serve from Santa Barbara City College during Moorpark's first conference game of the season, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in the Moorpark College gym. Fitzpatrick lead his team with 14 digs during the match. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

“The kid’s effort and energy is insane, nobody matches that. He always brings the team up no matter what, so it’s always good to have him out there,” Haskell said of Fitzpatrick.

Calvin Sanborn led the Vaqueros (3-2) with 18 kills while adding 12 digs.

“Going into this match, we knew we were basically looking in the mirror, playing a team that is very similar to us,” Hedland said.

Even voters could not place one over the other, so both teams had to share 5th place in the state heading into the match.

“They have a big setter like me, couple good middles, and a really good outside,” Weese said.

The Vaqueros took the first set of the night 25-22, but Moorpark responded, taking the second set 25-21.

In the third set, Santa Barbara jumped to an early 8-2 lead, but Moorpark did not give up. A Rasmussen kill put the score at 5-10 to spark a 7-2 run, when a Fitzpatrick service ace tied it up at 12-12. Both teams continued to trade points, but a Ryan Horan kill put them up two late, and Moorpark went on to win 25-22.

The Raiders were unable to keep the momentum, and once again fell into early deficit, down 3-11. “Starting stronger has been an issue for us all year, and we are going to continue to address it,” Hedland said.

The Raiders cut the Vaqueros lead within 6 after a Moses kill put it at 14-20. But the early hole the Raiders dug themselves was too big to climb out of, and the Vaqueros won 18-25.

With six lead changes, neither team was able to build a lead in the fifth set, but neither team gave up. With the score at 12-14, the Vaqueros looked to put the game away with one more point, but Dylan Haskell said otherwise.

Sophomore Dylan Haskell, left, and Freshman Ryan Horan signal their ideal sets to the setter before a serve during Moorpark's first conference game against Santa Barbara City College, on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in the Moorpark College gym. Haskell lead the team with 12 kills during the match. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

In the longest rally of the night, Weese set up Haskell twice and Moses once, before Haskell was finally able to punch in the kill to cut the Vaqueros’ lead to only one.

“He’s been a tremendous blocker for us all year long. He’s top 10 in stats in state, and you can see why,” head coach Aaron Hedland said on Haskell.

Moses followed Haskell up with another kill to tie it up at 14-14. A service error and a rotation violation against the Vaqueros put the Raiders up 17-16, and the ball heading towards Weese. With the Vaqueros expecting him to set a teammate up like he did all night, instead, Weese leaped up and spiked the ball in the small gap he found.

Freshman Steven Weese, 18, is celebrated by his teammates, Tyler Maki, 3, Brent Rasmussen, 14, Dylan Haskell, 10, and Jordan Moses, 15, after a kill against Santa Barbara City College on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in the Moorpark College gym. Weese ended match with his game winning kill. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

“As a lefty setter, I was able to swing on that second ball, teams don’t expect it, and that is exactly what happened,” Weese said.

The Raiders look to extend their four-game win streak when they hit the road to face the 1-4 Santa Monica Corsairs, Wednesday, March 6, at 6 p.m.