PREP VOLLEYBALL: Focused and talented Miners off to strong start | TheUnion.com

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Focused and talented Miners off to strong start

Junior outside hitter Preston Nowak leads the Miners in kills, aces and digs this season.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

With a talent-rich roster and a desire to win the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship in boys volleyball, the Nevada Union Miners have already proven they a force to be reckoned with this season.

Nevada Union has won 11 of their first 12 games, including a pair of Foothill Valley League victories over Placer and Oakmont. The Miners’ only loss came against non-league foe Granite Bay in a tourney championship game last Saturday.

“We’re strong all the way around,” said NU head coach Lance Mansuetti, now in his fourth season at the helm of the varsity team. “If anybody was to go down, or has an off night, we got guys who can step in. One of the things I’ve been blessed with the past few years is a roster with talented guys, and that gives me the ability to play everybody.”

The Miners have big goals this season. They have their sights set on winning the Foothill Valley League, gaining home court advantage throughout the playoffs and bringing home the Sac-Joaquin Section championship banner.

The key to achieving those lofty goals is mental toughness, said senior captain Jordan Mills.

“Staying focused throughout the year will be big,” said Mills. “We had mental lapses a few times last year and that cost us in the end, but just staying focused this year will be a big thing. We have a lot of talent and I think we can win the whole thing.”

Senior hitter Carter Depue added, “We have the athleticism, quickness and we can jump high and all that, but we need to stay focused.”

A season ago, the Miners went 31-5 and won a league title, but fell in the section semifinals to eventual champ Whitney.

The loss to Whitney came on the road and Mansuetti said he’s hoping to avoid playing on their court again.

“In my opinion, it starts with getting home court advantage,” Mansuetti said of what it will take to reach the section’s championship game. “That’s what we’re fighting for and that’s what we’re focused on. The last two years we’ve had to travel to hostile environments and we were just squeaked out of that home court advantage. So, that’s what we’re playing for and that’s what we think will be the difference.”

MINERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

The Miners boast a 10-person roster brimming with skill and athleticism.

Junior Preston Nowak, who was an All-Sierra Foothill League Second Team selection a season ago, leads the team in kills and aces, and has impressed with his leaping ability and powerful hitting.

“The future is so bright for him,” said Mansuetti. “He’s a very intelligent player and very athletic.”

Mills was an All-SFL First Team Selection last year, and is second on the team in kills this season.

“Jordan Mills knows the game like the back of his hand,” said Mansuetti.

A welcome addition to the team this year is 6-foot, 5-inch Depue, who leads the team in blocks and is third in kills.

“Carter is playing out of his mind for a first year player,” said Mansuetti. “He’s very talented. It’s amazing a guy can pick up this sport in one year and play as well as he is.”

The Miners also have potent hitters in senior Cameron Dallago and Judah Myers.

Running the NU offense and setting NU’s many hitters is 6-6 junior Colby Quiggle, who is averaging 7.3 assists per set.

Splitting the libero duties are juniors Sam Johnson and Jaycee Youngman. Johnson is second on the team in digs and Youngman third. Nowak leads the team in digs.

The Miners are an even keeled group that doesn’t get too high or too low during competition, said Mansuetti.

“They are easy going, good kids,” he said. “My only challenge as a coach is to get fire into them. These guys are steady. That said, I’d like to see a little more fire.”

NEW LEAGUE, SAME APPROACH

The Miners made the switch to the FVL this season, departing from the SFL, which they won in 2017 and 2018. The SFL is widely considered one of the more powerful volleyball leagues, but Mansuetti warns the FVL is not lacking in talented teams, noting Ponderosa (8-2, 2-0 FVL) is playing strong volleyball and Placer (7-5, 0-1) also has a formidable squad.

Other teams in the league include Oakmont (5-6, 1-1), Rio Linda (5-5, 0-1) and Lincoln (2-5, 0-1).

“We have a goal,” said Mansuetti. “So, we can’t take a break. We can’t take a game off and we can’t take a point off.”

The Miners have a pair of league games this week starting with a road bout at Ponderosa, who they beat 2-1 at a tourney earlier this season. NU then returns home to host Lincoln at 6 p.m. Friday at Albert Ali Gymnasium.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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