Losing three straight sets to Whitney was not what the Bear River boys volleyball team had in mind going into Thursday’s match.
But last year’s Capital League champs and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II runners up had other plans and sent the Bruins home with a straight-set loss, remaining a perfect 5-0 in league in the process.
Bear River lost 25-18, 25-16, 25-17 on their home court,
“It’s a mental thing,” said Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti. “We lost to (Whitney) at the Placer tournament earlier in two close sets. We need to show the passion and the desire. With the talent and ability we have on this team, it should be enough to motivate them.”
Bear River came out on its heels as the Wildcats jumped up to a 5-1 lead in the first set, but after a few rallies, the Bruins collected themselves and regained their composure to tie the game 9-9. Justin Beskeen rose above the net for a block and gave his team a short-lived 11-10 lead before the Wildcats answered right back with a hard smash that was too hot for the Bruins too handle. Whitney never surrendered the lead the rest of the night and closed out the first set on an 11-4 run.
“The first game, we came out and battled,” added Mansuetti. “After that, we just quit battling. We need to bring the same intensity as our opponents.”
Bear River was led by Nick Mansuetti, who slammed down four kills and an ace and also dished up 11 assists to go with a team-high five digs. Beskeen finished with five kills and five blocks. Justin Rypma added five kills, and Jason Toshci racked up a team-high 12 assists to go with an ace. Of course, the numbers just didn’t add up for the Bruins as the Wildcats outperformed them in almost every facet of the match to convert their hits into points.
In the second set, the Wildcats grabbed the early lead again, and Bear River pulled within one point with the score 6-5, but down the stretch, Whitney was dominant, and the Bruins had trouble keeping the ball in bounds.
“Our theme in practice has been cutting down on errors,” Mansuetti said. “It didn’t carry over into the game today. Our hitting percentage is below one-hundred, and we wont be able to win games in this league like that.”
Whitney’s David Parker and Kalen Harris tallied 10 kills each, and Keevan Carr added eight more for good measure. The Wildcats attack was balanced, featuring just as many well-placed softer-hit balls as the smack-down variety. By the third set, the Bruins were derailing and quickly found themselves in an 11-3 hole. They closed the gap to five points when they trailed 16-11, but Whitney poured on a 7-2 run, getting some players off the bench involved as it cruised to victory.
Matches like these should be real eye-openers for our players to continue working hard because we’re only one-third of the way through the season, said Mansuetti.
The Bruins finished runner-up in league play to Whitney last season, losing all three head-to-head matches, and after Thursday night’s match, Bear River is going to need to make some adjustments if it hopes to contend for a title this season.
“We talked about picking each other up when we don’t do well,” Mansuetti said. “We have to build each other up as a team and keep it positive. It’s such a game of momentum. Once you take it back, anything can happen.”
Bear River (5-3, 3-2) will look to create some momentum before it enters its Spring Break session with a practice today after school. The team will continue practicing all through next week, focusing on ball control and limiting mistakes before the Bruins resume league play April 2 versus Placer.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4234.