It had been eight days since the Nevada Union volleyball team had taken the court in competition.
Thursday at Albert Ali Gymnasium, the Miners (28-7) showed no ill effects from the long layoff as they won their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game against Oak Ridge in four sets, 25-13, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19.
“We came out of the chute playing hard,” Nevada Union outside hitter Bobby Curtis said. “We tend to keep it easy at the start, but we came out and beat them good in the first game, and we ran our middles a lot, which is good.”
After clinching the top seed in the section by way of winning the Sierra Foothill League, the Miners were awarded a first round bye. The team showed it had earned that bye and that the eight-day separation between games wasn’t going to be a problem.
“It was all positive tonight,” head coach Marco Salcedo said. “The only down we will address is we did a lot of talking during that first game, and then late in the second game, we stopped talking as a team and put it on auto pilot. We’ve got to be going full bore like we did in the first game.”
In the opening frame, NU jumped out to a 10-4 edge behind kills from Trevor Bryant, Lucas Vojak and Austin Marks, along with several Oak Ridge errors.
“Now that it’s playoffs, we’ve all stepped up,” NU senior Austin Marks said. “It’s do or die, and we’ve all been working really hard.”
Marks finished the day tied for the team-high in kills with 12. Vojak also had 12 kills in the win.
The Miners cruised to the opening-set win, 25-13, getting kills from Curtis, Vojak and Evan Kittle down the stretch.
In the second set, Oak Ridge (19-8) fired back, unwilling to take another beating like it had in the first set. The Trojans capitalized on several NU errors and grabbed an 8-4 lead.
Salcedo called a timeout to stall the momentum.
“It wasn’t any motivational speech or anything like that. He just said, ‘Stop doing what you’re doing, and do what you know how to do,’” Curtis said of the timeout discussion.
The Miners came out of the timeout and reeled off five straight points to take a 9-8 lead. The two squads battled back and forth the remainder of the set until the score was 18-16 in NU’s favor. From there, Marks tallied three kills as NU built a 24-18 lead. Curtis slammed the set shut with a thunderous kill set up nicely by Kittle, who finished the night with 21 assists and nine kills. Bryant was the other assist man, also tallying 21. Curtis closed the night with 10 kills and 26 digs. Nevada Union libero Chandler Heppe also had 26 digs in the win.
In the third set, Oak Ridge played with grit and vigor, grabbing a 14-11 lead and, despite falling behind 20-19, rallied to win the set with a 6-3 run to close it.
NU wrapped up the match in the fourth set, running out to a 15-10 and never letting the Trojans creep closer than that. In the final set, Vojak had three kills down the stretch, including the set winner.
The Miners are now into the section semifinals and will host the winner of the Del Oro-versus-Grant second-round matchup Tuesday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.