It was not the most memorable of Senior Nights for the Bear River boys volleyball team, as it was out-worked and out-played in three straight sets by Whitney, which stayed perfect in Capital Athletic League play to close out the season 15-0.
The Wildcats defeated the Bruins in three straight sets Thursday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium, 25-20, 25-11, 25-20.
“(Whitney) brought the fire,” said Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti after the lopsided loss. “They’re beatable. Last time we forced them to five games. We picked on a couple of their players, and tonight they took it personal.”
The Bruins were never really in control during the match. In the first set, they fell behind after the Wildcats went on a 9-1 run. Thanks to some Wildcat miscues Bear River was able to pull back within two points, but it never pushed Whitney out of its comfort zone. As the night wore on, Whitney’s David Parker proved time and time again why his team was at the top of the standings and used his athleticism to smash down kills left and right. Whitney took Game 2 by 14 points, and in the final set, Bear River hung around but never capitalized on its brief surges of momentum.
“Headed into the playoffs, we have to step up,” Mansuetti said. “We brought energy. We just didn’t match Whitney’s. You have to be aggressive versus teams like that, but the more aggressive you are, there’s also higher risk.”
Justin Beskeen led the Bruins with 10 kills, nine digs and three blocks. Jaxson Toschi added seven kills, 12 assists and three blocks. Nick Mansuetti contributed 16 assists and five digs. Tyler Hajewski and Karsten Staples also stepped up big defensively to finish with eight and six digs respectively.
This Bruin volleyball squad is built around seven talented seniors, all of whom have future plans for college. Beskeen will attend Cal State Northridge on a volleyball scholarship. Hajewski, Bear River’s valedictorian with a 4.28 GPA, will attend Air Force Academy. Toschi will be packing his bags for Cal Poly, and Tevyn Kimble will also be enjoying some sunshine on the coast at Santa Barbara City College. Grant Shatto, Cameron Kelly and Abram Bennett round out the upper-classmen who were all honored before the night’s match.
“I’ve coached most of them in basketball for junior high,” said Mansuetti. “It’s been great. Justin (Beskeen) and Tyler (Hajewski) came up early as sophomores to play varsity volleyball, so I’ve had them for three years now. Both made the Optimist All-Star Game this year. (The seniors) have matured over the years. Volleyball is a strategic game, and they’ve all shown more success at it.”
Now that the regular season is over, Bear River has earned the No. 2 seed from the CAL and will have an opportunity to make a playoff run for a Sac-Joaquin Division II title. Of course, if the Bruins want to win it all, they would most likely have to face off with Whitney again.
“It would be bittersweet to meet them again,” added Mansuetti. “That’s how the bracket works out, and we both have the ability to win out our bracket and meet in the finals.”
Last season, Bear River had the exact same league record (10-5) and was awarded the same No. 2 slot it attained this year. The Bruins eliminated Kennedy in the opening round at home and won their next match on the road against Oakmont before being knocked out by Vista del Lago in the semifinals. Vista del Lago won the championship in straight sets over Whitney.
“To be effective, we need to focus on the discipline,” Mansuetti said.
Bear River has been at its best when it stays in the system, and there aren’t players chasing down balls just to get it over the net, said Manuetti.
If there’s consistency within the system, then the offense can be run, and there’s opportunities to be had. Without consistency the better teams are going to eat you alive, he added.
The Bruins (21-10, 10-5 CAL) will host the No. 3 seed of the Metropolitan Conference Tuesday.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.