There is no quit in the Bear River boys volleyball team.
After suffering a disappointing five-set loss at Whitney Tuesday, the Bruins woke up the sleeping giant within themselves and overcame a 2-1 deficit to stun Placer Thursday night in five games, 23-25, 30-28, 21-25, 25-13, 15-12.
After battling back to tie the match 1-1, the Bruins dropped the third set and found themselves with their backs against the wall, but that’s when they turned it up a notch.
“That’s where we woke up,” said sophomore Nick Mansuetti, who served up multiple scoring streaks at key points in the match. “We can take it in five. Winning that fourth game really helped us with the momentum.”
In the fourth set Bear River came out on fire, a completely different attitude and vibe fueled the Bruins and as a result allowed them to blow it wide open with a 7-2 run. Up until that point, Placer had answered the call, but suddenly the Hillmen were on their heals.
“I’m proud of our guys for stepping up with our backs against the wall,” said Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti. “I have to tip my cap to Placer. This is a hard gym to win in. Placer wears you down ’til you make a mistake. They tested us down the home stretch, but we brought the energy and the intensity for the outcome to go our way.”
Bear River’s come-from-behind win was led by senior captain Justin Beskeen who finished with 22 kills and 10 blocks. Karsten Staples slammed down match point in the fifth set for his 11th kill and senior captain Tyler Hajewski batted down seven more kills to go with seven digs and four blocks. Mansuetti was in a giving mood all evening, serving the ball up for his teammates as he racked up 28 assists. Jaxson Toschi’s fingertips were also contagious with generous sets as he contributed 22 assists for the Bruins.
Originally, it was Placer who had come out with all the energy. The Hillmen took control early building an eight-point lead in the first game up 22-14, but Bear River rallied back with a 9-2 run to cut the lead to one point before serving into the net to give Placer a 1-0 set lead. In the second game Placer had game-point opportunities twice, leading 24-22 and 24-23, but Bear River dug deep and rallied to overtake Placer 30-28 with a few great rallies and a couple of Hillmen miscues.
“I put Beskeen back in the middle for the fourth and fifth game,” Lance Mansuetti said. “Placer had such great defense digging everything. It’s hardest to defend the middle and with Beskeen they wouldn’t have as much time to react. It’s more intimidating when his presence is there compared to outside.”
With the exception of the first game, Bear River led early and often. The Bruins actually held a 3-1 lead in all of the other games down to the finale, which had eight lead changes. After roaring through the fourth set to a lopsided 12-point victory, Bear River continued to play with the confidence it had previously lacked. A large part of its success was attributed to better serving.
“Nick (Manusetti) turned around with his serving, and we went on a run,” said Lance Mansuetti. “We made some key plays to put us where we needed to be.”
Trailing 9-8 in the fifth game, Beskeen elevated himself, as he does so well, and fired down a kill to tie it. He added a couple more in the game’s final minutes, and Hajewski came up with an impressive block to give the Bruins a 14-10 advantage. The Placer crowd that was once so full of life was depleted of energy as it watched Staples drop the dagger.
“We came out flat,” said Mansuetti. “Once we got focused and got our heads in the game, we knew what we needed to do and got it done.”
While it looks as though nobody will catch Whitney at the top of the Capital League, Thursday night’s victory completes a three-match season sweep of Placer and gives Bear River the inside track for the second place.
It’s a huge advantage to even be ranked one seed higher come playoff time, added Lance Mansuetti.
The Bruins (18-9, 7-4 CL) hit the court again Tuesday versus Rio Americano at Bear River.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.