PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bruins tame Lions, advance to NorCal Division III semifinals
Special to The Union
Bruins 3, Lions 0
(25-22, 25-15, 25-18)
BR: Jace Rath - 12 kills, 5 aces, 4 digs
BR: Brad Smith - 11 kills, 3 blocks, 4 digs
BR: Weston Prosser - 29 assists, 7 digs
Not done yet.
Fresh off its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball championship, Bear River extended its epic season with an opening round CIF NorCal Division III tourney win over the previously undefeated KIPP King Lions (San Lorenzo) Tuesday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
“That was awesome, man,” said junior Brad Smith, who fired down 11 kills and rose up for a trio of blocks to silence the Lions. “Just looking at a team, (Kipp King) had some good hitters, they could pass well, but we came out. We were excited. We were pumped for this game. We wanted to win really bad. It was great.”
Bear River, the No. 4 seed, made it look easy, topping No. 5 KIPP King in straight sets, 25-22, 25-15, 25-18, and now advances to the semifinals.
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Picking up right where they left off from the Sac-Joaquin Section title game, the Bruins roared out to a quick 7-1 lead and held off a late Lions rally to take the 1-0 edge.
“(KIPP King) won the open section to get here,” said Bear River head coach Jonathan Good, who had nothing but good things to say about his team afterward. “That’s a scrappy team. Even when we were looking really good on offense they didn’t give up and they hung with us. That was the difference in the end. We just had more offense, to side out when we needed to.”
From there, the Bruins ran away with the second set and sent the Lions back on their heals, leading wire to wire and closing it out with a blistering kill by sophomore Jace Rath to go up 2-0.
“Jace was standard Jace,” added Good. “Getting the big hits when he needed to. The crowd was behind him. Everybody was excited when the ball was going his way. Brad is the one I knew at the beginning of last year that could be that compliment to Jace, so it’s not just one person. We didn’t really have a lot of competition in the regular season. Now that we’ve played good teams, he’s come out and been his best he’s been all year so he feeds off that energy. He’s a gamer. He shows up when it’s important and exciting.”
Rath showed no mercy, hammering down a game-best 12 kills and served up five aces to keep the positive energy going. Sophomore Weston Prosser orchestrated the symphony of smashes, tossing up 29 assists.
With every Bruins point the crowd boomed louder as the team got closer and closer to another historic milestone for its boys volleyball program.
“I had a bunch of people. My family members, my friends. I had some people from my church come,” added Smith, who felt the presence of his fan club in the stands every time the Bruins made a play.
Finishing strong, the Bruins battled a bit more extensively in the third game as the Lions would not go quietly. After eight lead changes, the Bruins found their stride once again, using the powerful combination of Rath and Smith to rally for a 10-2 run and punch its ticket to the next round.
“When we’re both in the front row its really hard to try and block us or get an offense on their side to go,” added Rath, who elaborated on where the team goes from here. “Our mindset is confident but focused. We don’t want to get cocky or try to overthink what we’re playing, and just come out swinging.”
Bear River (27-5) hits the road for a trip to the CIF NorCal semis where it will take on top-seed Bentley (32-7) of Lafayette at 7 p.m. today.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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