PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bear River stays busy, continues to improve |

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bear River stays busy, continues to improve

2016 Lady Bruins

Head coach: Matt MacDonald

Current record: 8-12

Last season: 38-4, 10-0 in PVL

Big losses from 2015: Kaely Rath, Brooke Hajewski, Savannah Wirth, Melanie Jenkins

Players to keep an eye on in 2016: Ashley Albee, Alex Staples, Callie Bickmore, Mallory Rath, Grace Sypnicki, Kayla Toft

For the first time since the season began, the Lady Bruins are taking a weekend off.

The Bear River girls volleyball team has been busy this season, cramming 20 games into 14 days, including an especially brutal three day stretch this week in which they played three straight road games against strong competition.

“This is our first weekend off in a while, so we are definitely looking forward to it,” said Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald.

The Lady Bruins (8-12) opened the week at Capital Christian Tuesday, where they battled the undefeated Lady Cougars (8-0) closely but eventually fell in four sets, 25-16, 20-25, 25-23, 26-24. Bear River senior Ashley Albee led Bear river with 21 kills.

Bear River bounced back with a straight set, 25-20, 25-16, 25-20, win over Woodland Wednesday.

The Lady Bruins utilized a balanced attack to top Woodland as Albee had 16 kills, sophomore Callie Bickmore tallied 15 kills, Karinne McDonald had seven kills, Coral McLaughlin added five kills and Mallory Rath had four kills.

“It was probably our best offensive night of the season so far,” said MacDonald.

Bear River wrapped the week with a four set loss, 24-26, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18, to Bella Vista Thursday.

After the hectic start to the 2016 season, the Lady Bruins come up for air with an 8-12 record.

Despite just eight wins through 20 games, MacDonald said he likes the direction his team is heading.

“I’ve seen more growth this year, from this group, than I have from any other team I’ve been on or coached,” said MacDonald, who is now in his ninth year as the head coach of the varsity team.

Since MacDonald took over the Lady Bruins program in 2008, they have earned three Pioneer Valley League titles and won the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championship. Last season the Lady Bruins won the PVL and set a school record for wins with 38.

The Lady Bruins did graduate a lot of talent and experience, including 2015 PVL MVP Kaely Rath, but MacDonald said he thinks the 2016 Lady Bruins have the depth and talent to compete for the league title once again.

“It’s an interesting year,” said MacDonald. “Some teams see us as a team that won 38 games last season, and other teams see us as kind of retooling. So, we get to determine our own identity.

“One of the things we wanted to do was be in the (league contender) conversation, and I think we’re getting there.”

Overall, the Lady Bruins are young with only four seniors on their 14 person roster, but they are learning quickly, said MacDonald.

“It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in three weeks,” he said. “I think the game is starting to slow down for them.”

Leading the Lady Bruins on the court this season will be Albee, a three-year varsity senior outside hitter. Senior hitter Alex Staples along with Bickmore, Rath, Caitlin McLaughlin, Coral McLaughlin, Grace Sypnicki and Kayla Toft will all be important cogs in the Bear River machine this year, said MacDonald.

Toft, a junior Libero, is filling the all-league shoes of graduated Brooke Hajewski, and doing a good job.

“(Toft) is doing a phenomenal job for us,” MacDonald said.

The Lady Bruins get back to work Tuesday when they travel to face West Campus in Sacramento. Bear River opens PVL play Sept. 27 at home against Placer.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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