Too hot to handle.
That’s what the Antelope Titans may have been thinking to themselves after clashing with the Bear River Bruins and senior Karsten Staples in a Capital Athletic League bout Tuesday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
Staples scorched 19 kills through the Titans’ defense in the victory as the Bruins took the match in four sets, 25-16, 17-25, 25-20, 25-20.
“Passing was a huge difference so we could run the middle effective,” said Staples, who hammered down a game-high 19 kills to go with nine digs and two aces. “Middle dominated. It was our main source of energy. We just picked up our energy. We wanted it more.”
Bear River plowed ahead in Game 1, taking an 8-7 lead and running it up to 22-12 while getting everyone involved and maintaining its composure.
“Keeping our mistakes to a minimum and just put pressure on (Antelope),” said Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti. “We just got back on track and took care of business.”
After a small letdown down in Game 2, Bear River was quick to turn things back around in Game 3 where it took a 6-5 lead early and extended it to 12-6 after a crushing kill by junior Noah Hedenland.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Hedenland, who swatted eight kills and batted down three blocks. “(Everyone was ready) knowing what we had to do.”
Senior Justin Rypma also contributed five kills for the Bruins and served up a game-high four aces. He helped the team close out Game 3 with some finesse tips, which found their way through the cracks of a scrambling Antelope defense.
If some if good, then more is usually better, and Bear River carried its strong play into Game 4. The Bruins continued to dish out smash after smash working the middle of the court, upping its lead to as many as seven before coasting to victory. The win currently moves the team into a tie for third place.
“We were clicking really well,” said junior Nick Mansuetti, who tossed up a game-high 27 assists and also knocked down eight kills to go with nine digs and a pair of blocks. “Communicating and teamwork worked really well. Passing was helping my setting. You pass good, you set good. It was nice to give it to (Staples). He’s so tall up at the net.”
The Titans were led by senior captain Brad Davis, who finished with sevens kills. Senior Elmiden Jagurdzija also added five kills and five blocks.
Bear River appears to be turning a corner after competing Mar. 15 at the Placer Tournament. At the tourney, the Bruins lost their opening round match to Pondersoa, but then rallied to win three of their next four matches in the consolation round against Golden Sierra, Rocklin and El Dorado. The extra court time has served the squad well and overall, the guys now feel more prepared to battle in league.
“We’re not switching positions so now guys are getting more comfortable in their role,” added Mansuetti. “We’re gelling better as a team with better chemistry and settling in.”
The Bruins (5-5, 2-2 CAL) hit the court again Thursday where they’ll get all they can handle against league leader Whitney (13-3, 4-0 CAL).
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.