The Nevada Union and Bear River volleyball squads tipped off their seasons with a non-conference exhibition match Tuesday night at Albert Ali Gymnasium with the Miners defeating the Bruins in four sets, 25-17, 20-25, 25-15, 25-7.
“It was the first game,” said NU head coach Marco Salcedo. “We haven’t had many practices. We still need to get in sync.”
Bear River also came out looking to sharpen its skills and find identity for its players.
“We’re progressing,” Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti said. “We played at the NU Jamboree last weekend and a similar scrimmage at Jesuit the weekend before. We’re trying to figure out the right fit for us. Our guys can play multiple positions.”
The first two sets were split with the Miners winning the first and the Bruins roaring back to win the second as neither team trailed in route to its victory, but NU rallied to win the next two games convincingly.
The Miners have high expectations this season after being knocked out of the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals in five games by Granite Bay. Last season, NU finished 28-11 and went 7-4 in the Sierra Foothill League, Everyone on the roster is healthy and appears ready to make another run for a section title.
“We have the firepower, but we need a tighter system,” Salcedo said. “They’ll get there soon. We want to win the section. We’re focused and have the crew to do it. We just dealt with so many major injuries last year.”
The Bruins’ roster offers plenty of experience on the court with players who have played on club teams through the offseason.
“A lot of our guys played club ball year round,” added Mansuetti.
The third set belonged to the Miners with Trevor Bryant opening with five service points. NU never trailed and defensively made the Bruins work hard for nearly every point and communicated well to set up its shots.
NU was led by its starting seniors, Bobby Curtis, Austin Marks and Bryant. Curtis led the charge offensively, smashing down 13 kills. Marks tallied seven kills, and Bryant made six blocks for the match. Six-foot, 8-inch junior Lucas Vojak also let his presence be known as he contributed eight kills and four blocks for the Miners. Junior Chandler Heppe served a game-high five aces.
“We have three starting seniors and a lot of juniors,” Salcedo said. “Blocking is where we need the most work. We’re too big of a team not to be putting almost every single thing down.”
Nevada Union jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set and never gave Bear River a chance to catch its breath as it placed serves well and positioned itself perfectly at the net to block shots. Bear River struggled to keep the ball in play at times and only scored seven points but showcased much talent for the match as senior Justin Beskeen made some incredible plays. Beskeen led the team with 248 kills last season, converting 44.8 percent of his attempts. Tyler Hajewski is Bear River’s other senior captain.
“Tonight was an experiment with positions,” Mansuetti said. “We’re working rotation. We’ll need to cut back on mistakes, but it’s easy to be critical. It’s early.”
The Bruins finished 15-14 last season with a 10-5 record in the Capital League and were also eliminated from the playoffs in the semifinals as they fell to Vista del Lago, which went on to win the Sac-Joaquin Division II section title.
The energy of being able to fight through the challenges each match brings is key, said Mansuetti, who firmly believes his team has the talent and the ability to contend.
NU hosts Rio Americano Thursday in another exhibition match while Bear River will have plenty of time to practice before playing at Placer March 7.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.