There was no doubt about it, Bear River was simply outplayed by Placer in its Capital Athletic League boys volleyball home opener Thursday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
The Hillmen set the tone early on taking the first two sets, but then the Bruins found a spark to nab the third before Placer eventually delivered its knock out punch in Game 4 to defeat the Bruins, 25-15, 25-15, 25-27, 25-13.
“It’s a rough start,” said Bear River coach Lance Mansuetti. “To me it was a good eye-opener. Teams practice and feel they’re good, then come out here and realize how much harder they need to work.”
Rhythm was not easy to come by for the Bruins as they struggled to get into their system.
In Game 1 the team hung tough and kept it interesting until the midway point. With the game tied 12-12 Placer went on a 5-0 run to get its first real cushion of the match. With help from 6-foot 5-inch Wyatt Henson and 6-foot 8-inch Tyler Linton, the Hillmen managed to create quite a wall up front. Henson and Linton led the charge finishing with 20 and 14 kills respectively. Junior Parker Houston was also busy on the offensive attack as he led the team with 36 assists.
“Just coming out here in our first league match and doing the little things,” said Placer head coach Andrew Klem. “Stay simple, keep it simple. We started off on the right foot and came out playing well for what we have. We wanted to win in three sets but it just didn’t happen. Our defense really came through and we set up our outside hitters nicely.”
In Game 2 the Bruins were on their heels as Placer jumped out to a 15-3 lead. Bear River started to gather its composure near the end of the set but by then the deficit was already too great to overcome. Seniors Karsten Staples and Justin Rypma each smacked down some impressive hits, but the squad’s consistency just wasn’t there overall. Staples led the team with eight kills, followed by Rypma and Nick Mansuetti, who each contributed five.
“It’s such a game of timing,” added Mansuetti. “At varsity level we have to be more consistent. We can’t be that sporadic.”
The bright spot for the Bruins was most definitely arrived in Game 3, where they withstood the Hillmen’s offensive attack and fought back jab for jab until the end when they finally got over the hump and earned a victory. Bear River took the lead 7-6 after a double hit violation against the Hillmen and extended its lead to as many as six points, up 18-12. Its offense began to click as junior Nick Mansuetti set up his teammates nicely both middle and outside. He finished with 16 assists, five kills and a pair of aces.
As the momentum increased for Bear River everything seemed to be going its way and Placer appeared out of sync. The game was far from over though as the Hillmen stormed back to tie it 24-24 with key contributions from its big men and a few Bruin miscues. It was all for not, though, as Rympa swatted down an exhilarating kill to give Bear River a 26-25 edge. Placer was called for crossing the net on the next sequence.
“We just brought out a lot more energy,” explained Mansuetti. “It was a different level. We changed the lineup. I moved Karsten to outside rather than middle. The intensity goes up when your leader plays well. Everybody does better.”
And just as quickly as its newfound intensity graced the Bruins it evaded them even faster in the evening’s final set. Placer suddenly flipped its switch and returned to form, making quick work of the Bruins as it led wire to wire to claim the match and stay perfect on the season (3-0, 1-0 CAL). The Hillmen finished the match with 56 kills.
Bear River (0-2, 0-1 CAL) will look to recoup when it heads down Highway 49 to take part in the Placer Tournament on Saturday, where it will have more opportunities to fine tune its game against other quality opponents.
“I think there’s 16 teams going to be there — Rio Americano, Jesuit, El Dorado... It’s just about getting court time,” said Mansuetti.
The Bruins next league game is Tuesday at Rio Americano.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.