Bear River pushed two-time Sac-Joaquin Division II defending champ Vista del Lago to the brink of its playoff life Tuesday night in the Eagles home nest, but fell short in five battle-tested sets, 19-25, 25-20, 15-25, 31-29, 13-15.
“A few bounces and it could have gone either way,” Bruins head coach Lance Mansuetti said. “I told them to keep their heads up. We had our backs up against the wall in front of (Vista del Lago’s) home crowd. I’m proud they forced it to five games and they battled even after using up so much emotion to win the fourth.”
The Bruins held leads in all five games, including a 7-4 advantage in the decisive Game 5. However, after an Eagles’ timeout Vista del Lago soared with a 6-0 run to go ahead 10-7. Bear River regrouped with its own timeout and came out focused, putting together a 4-0 stretch to regain the lead. With the game tied 12-12 Vista del Lago dug deep and pulled away with well-executed plays that forced Bear River out of its comfort zone. The Eagles now move on to the championship game against the winner of the Whitney versus Valley semifinal.
“There were times where we were playing it safe,” Mansuetti said. “I just told them to trust in their abilities and play.”
The Bruins let everything loose in an incredible fourth set as they overcame obstacles and found a way to break through against the Eagles in dramatic fashion. Ahead most of the way, Bear River suddenly found itself trailing 24-23 and called a timeout to think over what could of easily been its last moments on the court. That’s when senior Justin Beskeen took over.
“Beskeen had the fire in his eyes,” Mansuetti said. “In those situations you have to set up your best guy. We just battled. Our guys were frustrated with bad breaks, balls off the net, but that kind of stuff is going to happen. We just can’t give (Vista del Lago) the easy ones.”
After a Beskeen kill, the game was tied 24-24 and from there the Eagles failed to close out match points on three different occasions. Bear River finally went on top after Beskeen smashed another one down, but the game drug on with serves into the net and balls hit out of bounds by each team. Ahead 30-29, Bear River’s Karsten Staples ripped one the defense couldn’t handle and the do-or-die Game 5 was set.
Aside from Game 3, the Bruins forced the issue every game. They led in the first set 15-14 before finally surrendering the lead for good and they rallied to overcome a 13-9 deficit to win Game 2 by five points.
“It seemed they had fun and made some good memories,” said Mansuetti. “I wish the best for (the seniors) and Justin (Beskeen) in college. I hope he will be successful.”
Beskeen certainly has a bright future ahead of him on the volleyball court as he led his team with 22 kills, eight digs, five block and two aces.
Tyler Hajewski will also be missed as he finished up with six kills and five digs, which included some pivotal plays down the stretch to keep the Bruins alive. Setting up the offense were Jaxson Toschi and Nick Mansuetti who finished with 22 assists and 20 assists respectively.
The Bruins (22-12) graduate seven seniors and will look to build next season’s squad around a good core in Nick Mansuetti, Justin Rypma and Staples, added Lance Mansuetti.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.