LOST SEASON: Defending champion Bruins heartbroken over loss of season
This year’s batch of volleyball Bruins may have been the best in school history.
They won’t have the chance to prove it, though.
“The most complete team that I’ve ever coached, boys or girls,” said Bear River volleyball head coach Jonathan Good. “By far the best overall team we’ve had since the 2001 state championship team. I really think this team would have pushed that team.”
After barreling through the competition and nabbing the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship a season ago, the Bear River boys volleyball team was loaded with returning talent and poised for what they hoped would be a historic season.
“We definitely could have made a run for the state championship,” said senior libero Joe Guerra. “We wanted it. We were willing to put in the work. We all wanted to win and wanted to showcase that Bear River volleyball was one of the best in the state. Our passion and dedication to the sport really put us in that group.”
The Bruins won’t get that chance, as they, along with every other prep team in the state, had their season ended due to COVID-19.
“It was heartbreaking because I play sports to help me get through high school,” said senior middle block Jon Rice. “Volleyball became my main sport. It really made my heart hurt because I enjoy this sport so much and love playing it and playing it with my friends.”
Guerra added, “When it was canceled I was really upset for a few weeks. I’m still trying to get over it.”
The defending Division III Section champion Bruins were 8-1 overall and ranked third in the Sacramento area by MaxPreps.com when the season was halted.
“I think we had the best offense all around, right there with Nevada Union,” said Good. “They were having fun with it. It was fun to watch because of how much fun they were having, and being as good as they were made it that much more special.”
When asked what made this year’s Bruins a special group, the four seniors on the squad all agreed it was the bond that had formed among teammates.
“There was no tension between the teammates and coaches,” said senior hitter Bradley Smith. “No one was trying to prove anything. We just meshed really well together. We never got down and we always picked each other up. I always felt like if it was an intense game we could flip a switch and it’s go time. We were a brotherhood. We would get after it, but at the end of the day, we are all friends and we all love each other. I’ll miss the bond we had.”
LOADED WITH TALENT
In addition to their tight connection to each other, the team was stacked with athletic talent and championship experience.
Seven members from last year’s title team were back again, including last season’s Pioneer Valley League MVP Jace Rath as well as 2019 All-PVL First Team selections in Smith, Guerra, Brekyn Vasquez and Weston Prosser.
Good said he feels for all his players, but especially his seniors: Smith, Guerra, Rice and Vasquez — all of whom were key players for the Bruins and poised to make big contributions this season.
“It was heartbreaking they lost their senior season they’ve been working so hard for,” he said. “It’s devastating for those guys. I know how much they were looking forward to it.”
Smith, a multi-sport star at Bear River, was emerging as a dominant force for the Bruins.
“He jumps so high and he’s so smart with where he hits it,” said Good. “He could take over a game. It was really fun to watch. To be able to block, hit and serve like he did is rare.”
Vasquez, another multi-sport standout, brought energy, a team-first attitude and elite athleticism to the court.
“He can hit super smart, one of the best tippers on the team, and he really grew as a passer,” said Good. “He was a spark plug for the team. He’s such a high-energy guy.”
Guerra, a team captain, was an integral part of the squad’s defense and someone Good could trust to lead the team on the court.
“Having a team captain that I can trust, and that trusts me, made it a lot easier for me as a coach,” said Good.
Rice, in his second year with the varsity squad, had made giant strides in his game and was expected to be a major contributor this season.
“Jon has made the most improvement from day one to now,” said Good. “When Jon started with us he was really raw but super athletic. This year was his year. He was crushing the ball in the middle.”
Rice said he wants to continue playing volleyball and plans to do so in South Carolina as a member of a beach club team. Guerra said he plans to play in some outdoor volleyball tournaments this summer and will be attending Sierra College in the fall. Smith said he is yet to decide on a college, but would like to continue competing at the next level whether it’s volleyball or basketball. Vasquez said he is undecided on his college destination as well, still deciding between Pepperdine University and the University of Utah.
“We’re just a good group of guys who like to have fun and we’re passionate about what we were doing,” Vasquez said. “I’m going to miss the guys the most, and I wanted to see how far we could go. … We were trying to make a run at history.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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