PREP VOLLEYBALL: Miners win share of SFL title, ride 10-match win streak into playoffs | TheUnion.com

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Miners win share of SFL title, ride 10-match win streak into playoffs

With its usual balanced attack, the Nevada Union volleyball team thrashed Oak Ridge Monday night.

The victory was the Miners' 10th straight and in the process earned them at least a share of the Sierra Foothill League Championship.

The Miners (29-4, 11-1 SFL) can still win the league title outright if Woodcreek (14-6, 0-1) losses either of its final two league bouts. The Timberwolves face Del Oro (8-9, 6-5 SFL) today and close the regular season Thursday against Granite Bay (22-11, 7-3 SFL).

No matter how the league standings pan out the Miners are destined for the playoffs for the seventh straight season and third in a row with head coach Lance Mansuetti at the helm.

"These guys have really good chemistry," said Mansuetti, who regularly plays all 11 of his varsity players each match. "This is a tight group that's had success their whole high school career… They play well together. They get along well. Volleyball is very much a cooperative sport. For a team to be successful in a cooperative sport you have to have trust. And, I think that's what separates these guys and makes them successful, is they have that trust."

In addition to team chemistry, the Miners are loaded with talent.

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"The reason our team works so well is we have every aspect of the game," senior setter and team captain Sam Hales said. "We're good at defense, we're good at offense and everything in between. It's all been coming together as the season has come along and we continue to get better."

The Miners have been slicing through its opponents during its recent win streak, which included a championship run at the UC Davis Aggie Classic last weekend.

HEAVY HITTERS

The Miners are stacked with players who can hammer the ball down, boasting five players with at least 100 kills this season.

Leading the NU hitters is senior captain Nick Ashbaugh who has a team-high 303 kills, was named the MVP of the UC Davis Aggie Classic, and was recently chosen to participate in the 2018 Optimist All-Star Game.

"Nick is a coaches dream," Mansuetti said of the 5-foot, 11-inch outside hitter. "He works so hard and has such a good work ethic. For a guy his size to be as successful as he is is a credit to his work ethic."

Nevada Union also has talented hitters in junior Jordan Mills (165 kills), sophomore Preston Nowak (118 kills), senior Tanner Quiggle (111 kills) and senior Ibrahim Torkman (107 kills).

"It's an opposing coach's nightmare," Mansuetti said.

Quiggle, a senior, was recently chosen to participate in the Optimist All-Star Game. Mills, a junior, was an All-Tourney selection at the UC Davis Aggie Classic.

SETTING THE TABLE

Setting the NU hitters all season has been Hales, who leads the team with 445 assists.

"Setter is your quarterback," Mansuetti said. "A big part of a mature setter is running an effective offense and keeping the defense off balanced. A good setter makes the hitters job easier and (Hales) does that really well."

Hales was an All-Tourney selection at the UC Davis Aggie Classic, and was chosen to participate in the Optimist All-Star Game.

The Miners also have a talented setter in Trevor Johnson, who is second on the team with 280.

HOW CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE WON

"We all hear the cliché that defense wins championships. Well it's true," said Mansuetti. "Especially at the high school level. What happens is a great defense will put pressure on an offense and eventually breaks it down."

Mansuetti added NU's defense has been strong of late, and needs to be consistent if the Miners want to make a deep run.

Leading the defense has been libero Joey Cena with a team-high 272 digs this season.

"(Cena's) doing a really good job of getting that ball up," said Ashbaugh. "Tips, hard angles, anything, he's there getting it up."

Ashbaugh is next on the team with 200 digs, and Mills has 138 this season.

Leading the Miners at the net has been Mills with a team-high 38 blocks. Quiggle is next with 36. Nowak has 31 and four other NU players have 20 or more blocks this season.

WHAT LIES AHEAD

The Miners are no strangers to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, having participated in the postseason in eight of the last nine years. The Miners have also reached the section title game three times, but have yet to bring home the championship. Their last trip to the title game was 2014. A season ago, the Miners lost to eventual champ Roseville in the semifinals.

The 2018 playoff brackets are set to be released Sunday. Games start Tuesday.

"I feel like the season is just beginning," said Hales. "I want the playoffs to last as long as possible…We're not burned out at all. There's still plenty of gas in the tank, and hopefully we can take that into the playoffs and have a nice long run."

To find success in the playoffs, Ashbuagh added there are few keys things the Miners must accomplish.

"We need to play smart, play with confidence and be ready for anything," he said. "We just need to keep working and keep improving."

FUTURE IS BRIGHT

Nevada Union's junior varsity squad went 11-1 in SFL play and claimed the league championship. The JV Miners also won their division at the UC Davis tourney last weekend. A couple of those JV players will now join the varsity team for the playoff run.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.