Adams: In the middle of something special
The middle … if you listen to the Nevada Union volleyball team, this is where their push toward the Sac-Joaquin Section championship will be won … the middle.
Lucas Vojak and Austin Marks step into the limelight. They are seen as the pivotal cogs who will decide whether NU will journey into the promised yet treacherous land of a sectional championship.
With a decisive hitting game, it is generally believed that balls played to the middle will dictate the opportunities to alternate to the outside where the likes of Bobby Curtis and Trevor Bryant are dominant contributors.
To a man, the mantra is that the Miners must play their game. True, they must defend decisively, but it is the hard hitting of a seasoned and talented squad that will dictate whether coach Marco Salcedo can finally capture an elusive sectional crown.
It has been a regular season of sometimes unexpected ups-and-downs. Their experience of playing five-set matches has been a surprise. Yet, the likes of Del Oro, Roseville, Rocklin and Granite Bay have all taken the Miners through five often-grueling games that tested the mettle of this team.
Yet, they feel as though they are peaking.
Junior Chandler Heppe pointed out, “It will take teamwork both mentally and physically. Everything must fall into place. The last two weeks we have gelled as a team.”
Indeed, there is reason to believe they have brought it all together at just the right time. They speak of a sense of urgency to get this done. They talk of leaving it all on the court. Although this squad is quick to point out that there have been challenges, they know that the task before them is within reach for the first time since 2009.
Evan Kittle noted, “Now is the time to buckle down and get to work. Marco said, ‘The only team that will beat you is yourself.’ It has to show up in the next three matches.”
Kittle is right. The last several matches have shown an NU team that has risen to the occasion. Big wins against Del Oro, Rocklin and Woodcreek have been marked by focused efforts. They appear hungry for the grand prize that has seemed to elude them since this format began in 2009. Winning the Sierra Foothill League is simply not enough. Failing to prevail in sections will leave this team with an empty, unfulfilling result.
Heavy-hitter Trevor Bryant suffered a concussion last Monday versus Roseville. He is day to day as he recovers. Although Salcedo needs the likes of Bryant to put his best players on the court, he is faced with the fact that Bryant may not be available when the Miners face their first opponent next Thursday at Ali Gymnasium.
However, Salcedo has boasted a deep bench all season, and he is prepared, if necessary, to make a hesitant go without Bryant.
He offered, “A lot is dependent on Trevor. Having an extra senior talent will make a big difference. He should be back.”
He continued, “We must maintain our game plan. The guys must stay in the game and not deviate. We must stop runs by running the offense through the middle.”
There is a lot on the shoulders of Bobby Curtis. He must try to accomplish what brother Cody could not during four stellar years at Nevada Union. Yet, many feel that Curtis is poised to make the biggest impact of his high school career.
To a man, the theme seems to be the same.
Curtis commented, “We need to be consistent and play our game. We have been working on playing together. This is very important. I want to go out with our first section championship. I want to be the first Miners team to win.”
Salcedo has been here before. Yet, this squad is a bit different. They understand the arduous task before them and know the importance of getting the job done.
Standing in the wings is a squad that has won multiple section championships. The Granite Bay Grizzles are in a separate bracket. If things play out the way they might, the Miners may have yet another date with destiny versus Granite Bay at neutral site Monterey Trail in Elk Grove. If this is the case, Nevada Union will be well tested. They will have their second shot (the first being with what Salcedo frequently calls “The Dream Team” in 2009) for the championship versus the Grizzles.
Things seem a bit different. If there was ever a time for NU, it must be now. Although the pressure is high, this is a poised squad. They seem ready for a deep run. They realize the value of the prize. They are proud of their accomplishments, but it is simply not enough.
Sections will be a Tuesday/Thursday format. NU is the top seed. All games prior to the championship game will be at Ali Gymnasium.
The moments of truth are indeed upon us. The middle, indeed, is where this may well be decided. It is the perfect place for the Nevada Union Miners to stake their claim. It will surely be a two-week adventure. For Bryant, Marks and Curtis, this is the last shot at the gold ring.
Jim Adams lives in Nevada City and is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. Contact him at email@example.com.
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