Bruins have solid base
The Bear River girls volleyball team turned the page on its three previous lackluster years with the help of last season’s furious finish.
The Lady Bruins, who were stuck near the bottom of the Sierra Foothill League table during that span, cashed in on the big swings of league co-most valuable player Sheena Atwood, as well as all-league performers Sabrina Zauner and Andie King, to win six of their last seven regular season matches.
With that came a second-place tie tied and, most important, a first section playoff berth since 1998.
The first round brought the ninth-seeded Lady Bruins and No. 8 Colfax together.
The Lady Bruins dropped the first game to their former Golden Empire League and western foothills rival, but won three straight to take the match and set up a quarterfinal showdown with top-seeded St. Francis of Sacramento.
Bear River’s fairytale season came to abrupt end with a three-game loss to the eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champs. But Lady Bruin head coach Keith Hart said his squad is primed for a repeat trip to the postseason.
“They’re much more aggressive this year. They’re going after the ball, instead of standing around and letting (them) fall. I can’t ask anymore than that,” Hart said. “And they’re supporting each other more and talking on the court more where before we weren’t doing that. That’s a 100 percent better than last year.”
Thanks to league realignment, Bear River will face a mix of old and new in the newly formed Pioneer Valley League this season.
On the familiar side, Bear River will face Oakmont of Roseville – which also made the switch from the SFL to the PVL – and old buddy Colfax.
Colfax is the only school we already have a rivalry with so it’s kinda cool because we’re going to come out not knowing what to expect. It’s going to be interesting,” senior outside hitter Alyssa Prince said.
Bear River, which opens PVL play at Lincoln 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23, will also face a whole host of new faces this season.
Mira Loma and the brand-new Johnson West, both of Sacramento; and Mesa Verde of Citrus Heights round out Bear River’s league schedule.
We and (Colfax) are going to be the top dogs in the league this year. Oakmont and Mira Loma have new coaches, and from what everybody tells me, Lincoln won’t be a threat (either),” Hart said. “But whoever we step on the court against, we have to take seriously.”
AT THE NET
While Bear River lost Atwood, Zauner, King and a host of other big hitters to graduation, Hart doesn’t seem worried.
On the outside, he will look to Candice Wermes, Kate Wellmon, Bri Harris, Kristin Lawton and Prince for production.
Candice is going to be a big (weapon). We’re going to get a lot of kills from her this year. And Kate Wellmon on the opposite side will be a real force for us.”
In the middle, Wermes and Wellmon will team with Stephanie Martin to lock down the middle.
Bear River will have a prove quantity at setter with returning letter winner Gena Jackson.
You’ll see that girl run for a ball that’s 10 feet off the court, hit the floor, and bring it back in. She never gives up on a ball,” Hart said. “She’s really (matured) as a setter.”
Bear River will travel to Loomis to play Del Oro today then face western Nevada County rival Nevada Union on the road Thursday.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.