ELK GROVE — For the fourth time in five years, Granite Bay will hoist the Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball championship banner. The Grizzlies defeated Nevada Union in four sets, 25-17, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, Thursday night at Monterey Trail High School to solidify their volleyball dynasty.
It was the second time in two years that the Grizzlies have dashed the Miners’ section championship hopes, beating them last season in the semifinals. Thursday’s victory was also the second time Granite Bay has won a title match when facing NU, having beat them in five sets in the 2009 section championship.
“There’s still that monkey on our back,” NU head coach Marco Salcedo said. “We are both elite volleyball programs, so it’s a rivalry that has been going on since we started volleyball, and every game, we have with them has been an ultra-match.”
The Grizzlies opened Thursday’s ultra-match hitting on all cylinders. Granite Bay broke a 9-9 tie with Nevada Union by going on a 10-0 run behind kills from John Hayes and Brandon Freitas as well as several aces from Vaughn Peterson.
Trailing 19-9, NU scrambled to recover with kills from Austin Marks and Greg Paul, but NU would eventually yield Game 1, 25-17.
In Game 2, Granite Bay continued to ride the momentum, jumping out to a 10-5 lead. NU would respond with kills from Paul, Bobby Curtis and Lucas Vojak to pull within two at 17-15.
Curtis finished the night with a team-high 11 kills, Vojak added nine kills, and Paul had four.
Some strong defensive play from Marks and Paul along with some Granite Bay errors saw the game knot at 20.
Marks played strong all night, tallying 10 kills, and was a major force at the net, blocking several Grizzly kill attempts.
NU would take the lead at 21-20 on the heels of a Trevor Bryant block, but that would be it for the Miners, as Granite Bay reeled off five straight points coming on three NU errors and a pair of kills from Granite Bay’s Hayes and Austin Downs.
“I kept trying to get the boys to settle down,” Salcedo said. “I could see they were scared and nervous. It’s just one of those things. We settle them down, and we got the score closer, then in Game, 3 it was like, ‘Guys, we already improved from game one. Let’s do this,’ and they did. They bought into it and made a lot of plays. We were rolling in that last game, and a couple calls here or there, and it might be different, but in reality, that’s volleyball.”
In Game 3, the Miners looked like the Sierra Foothill League champs and the No. 1 seed they are. NU grabbed a 5-1 edge with an emphatic kill from Vojak set up nicely by Evan Kittle. Kittle closed the night with an impressive 32 assists.
Granite Bay would rally and tie the game at 10, to which NU responded with a 10-6 run behind kills from Marks and Bryant as well as a block by Curtis.
NU pulled ahead 23-22 and closed the game with a kill from Curtis followed by a kill from Bryant.
The fourth and final game was neck and neck as neither team could grab an advantage of more than three. Back and forth the two volleyball juggernauts went until the set was locked at 23-23. Granite Bay would pull ahead with a kill by Zach Wilson and then an NU error ended the game, and Granite Bay celebrated their latest section championship.
“We had so much confidence all season, and then we come in here, and there’s all that pressure to be that first team to (beat Granite Bay), and you have to remember these are just young kids,” Salcedo said. “This builds character, and I hate to say it, but the losses sometimes last longer than the wins.”
The Miners handled themselves with class at the end accepting their runner up patches and shaking hands with the Grizzly players.
But that doesn’t mean the loss doesn’t sting, said Salcedo.
“For me, this one will last every bit as long as the last one,” he said. “I really thought tonight, the way the tables were turning, this could be the biggest payback of all paybacks to come back in five.”
Thursday’s loss does not mark the end of NU’s season though, as for the first time in CIF history, there will be a NorCal volleyball tournament.
“Most of the time we would be done,” Salcedo said. “But tomorrow we got practice. This season is done, and tomorrow we got whole other road in front of us.”
The Miners will indeed likely be on the road Tuesday in the first round of the CIF NorCal Tournament.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.