With the Nevada Union volleyball team ahead two games to one and leading the fourth set 26-25, a determined Bobby Curtis took flight, rising above the net and slamming down match point to give the Miners their first win over Granite Bay in three years.
“Just went up, perfect pass, perfect set, and it turned out well,” said senior Curtis. “It was really nice to beat Granite Bay. Everything was clicking. There was lots of pressure, but we would have taken (game five).”
NU (16-4, 2-0 Sierra Foothill League) lost to the Grizzlies (6-6, 0-1 SFL) four times last season, so Wednesday night’s victory at Albert Ali Gymnasium was a welcomed change. The Miners beat their SFL rival in four captivating sets, 25-18, 21-25, 25-18, 27-25.
“Bobby (Curtis) was just unstoppable,” said NU head coach Marco Salcedo. “It’s been three years since we’ve beaten Granite Bay. Lots of close ones with them. It feels good. These guys work hard. We finally have the leaders and seniors. It’s our turn.”
Before the Miners sealed the match with Curtis’ kill, the Grizzlies missed their opportunity to win the game when they led 25-24. A controversial call came with the game tied 25-25 as NU hit what originally appeared to be a ball that landed just out of bounds, but the line judge had the call reversed, putting the Miners back on top.
“When it gets close, in those kinds of situations, you just trust your teammates and put it away,” said senior Trevor Bryant.
To get to that gut-wrenching fourth set, the Miners had taken the first game quite easily leading the entire way as the Grizzlies never really threatened. However the tide turned in the middle of the second game as Granite Bay went on an 8-1 run to blow it open 18-11. NU answered back with a 10-4 run to pull within one-point, but the Grizzlies served up three straight points capped off by an ace to square the match 1-1.
“Our serve-receive was not where we needed it to be,” Salcedo said. “That’s why it was all Bobby (Curtis) and Trevor (Bryant) outside.”
The rally of all rallies came in the third set with the ball sailing back and forth over the net for what seemed like an eternity. Just when the point appeared to be won, someone would make a dramatic play to keep it alive.
When the Grizzlies finally committed a double-hit violation, it gave NU a 12-9 lead and all the confidence it would need to close out the game. The Miners never trailed the rest of the way as Austin Marks came up with a couple of key blocks and Curtis slammed down a few more kills to put his team up 2-1.
“Trevor (Bryant) had some great kills but really sparked us defensively in that third game,” Salcedo added. “He had like five digs in that one long rally to turn it around.”
NU was led by its starting seniors, Curtis and Bryant, along with juniors Evan Kittle and Chandler Heppe. Curtis was impressive offensively, smashing down 21 kills and also swatting down seven blocks. Bryant tallied 14 kills and five blocks. Heppe was on his toes throughout the evening finishing with 29 digs to keep the Miners in the thick of it while Kittle ran a marathon, dishing out a game-high 44 assists.
“That whole third game, we came back and just took it over,” Curtis said. “We let go of our mistakes and just went for it.”
As the fourth game went down to the wire, it felt more and more like a game five with everything on the line. NU’s bigs continued to step up and feed off the crowd. There were eight lead changes, and the Grizzlies had game-point with a 25-24 lead, but they didn’t let it get to their heads, said Bryant.
“We just played as a team,” Bryant added. “(Granite Bay) is a huge rival. We lost to them when I was a freshman, sophomore and a junior, so it’s a good feeling.”
Curtis hammered down the all-important match point to give the Miners their first win over the Grizzlies since 2010. When the final point fell, players cleared the bench and rushed on to the court.
NU hits the court again Monday at Del Oro.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4234.