PREP VOLLEYBALL: Historic seasons come to a close for Miners, Bruins
The Nevada Union Miners and the Bear River Bruins had their thrilling rides through the boys volleyball postseason come to an end Thursday night.
The Miners (29-3) fell on the road in four sets to the Serra Padres in the NorCal Division II semifinals. The Bruins (27-6) also had their season end on the road, losing to Bentley in straight sets in the D-III semifinals. The losses conclude historic seasons for the local high school programs, which look to be title contenders for years to come.
Nevada Union had been a perennial playoff team ever since 2009, when the section started offering a postseason for boys volleyball. It took seven semifinal appearances and three second place finishes before the Miners finally broke through this season and brought home the school’s first Section banner in boys volleyball.
It took a thrilling come from behind victory over El Camino in the D-II championship game, but the Miners can finally call themselves Section champs.
“Winning a Section title for the first time ever means so much,” said senior outside hitter Jordan Mills.
The Bruins, like the Miners, brought home their school’s first section title in boys volleyball, earning the D-III championship with a four set win over Ripon Christian.
“This is really cool for our guys,” said Bear River head coach Jon Good. “First time ever making it. To get the win was just extra special for the program. We only have eight guys, maybe we’ll get some other people interested to keep playing for us … Pretty lucky to get these type of athletes to come out for me and stick with it. Super young kids, but they really love the sport and they want to get better everyday. As a coach I got it pretty easy.”
Bear River’s title run is made more impressive when considering the boys program had folded in 2017. But behind Good’s leadership, the Bruins resurrected the program in 2018 and roared to the title this year.
IN LEAGUES OF THEIR OWN
When it came to league play, both teams went undefeated against their respective league opponents and were rarely tested along the way. The Miners went 10-0 in Foothill Valley League play and dropped just three sets en route to the title. The Bruins were nearly perfect in Golden Empire League play, going 12-0 and losing only one set on their way to the GEL championship.
It wasn’t just league opponents who struggled against the Miners and the Bruins, it was the entire section. Of NU’s three losses, two were to teams from a different section (Clovis North and Serra), and the third came against Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champ Granite Bay, a team the Miners also beat once during the season.
Of Bear River’s six losses, three came against teams outside the Section and the other three came during a tourney in which the Bruins were shorthanded due to injuries and illness.
Both teams boasted incredible athletes who regularly brought the crowd to its feet with high flying, explosive hitting.
The Miners were loaded with power hitters, including Mills, whose coach referred to his athleticism as both a physical and a mental advantage.
“His high flying is intimidating for teams,” said Mansuetti, who led the Miners to the section title in just his fourth year at the helm of the program. “When teams see him flying up high and bouncing balls, it puts them on their heels. It’s intimidating. It’s a mental game and having a player like him gives us a mental edge.”
NU’s arsenal of hitters also included junior Preston Nowak, senior Carter Depue, senior Cameron Dallago and junior Judah Myers.
Leading the Bruin hitters all season was sophomore sensation Jace Rath, who rocketed down jaw-dropping kills and aces with regularity. Rath led the entire section in aces and was second in kills.
In addition to Rath, the Bruins had impressive hitters in Brad Smith, Noah Skowronski, Jon Rice and Brekyn Vasquez.
SETTING THE TABLE
The maestros who orchestrated the potent NU and Bear River offenses were Colby Quiggle and Weston Prosser, respectively. Quiggle, a 6-foot, 6-inch junior, did a masterful job all season of disturbing the ball to the myriad of Miner hitters, often keeping their opponent guessing. Quiggle, who was second in the Section in assists, was especially sensational in the championship match with El Camino when he doled out a season-high 54 assists.
Bear River’s Weston Prosser shined all season as well. The energetic sophomore ran Bear River’s offense with precision and finished with the third most assists in the section.
CAN YOU DIG IT
Championship teams need more than just a potent offense, they also need a dependable defense. Shoring up the Miners’ defense was junior libero Jaycee Youngman, who led the team in digs, and junior defensive specialist Sam Johnson who was second on the team in digs. Youngman led the FVL in digs and Johnson was second.
The Bruins also have a libero they can count on to keep the ball alive in Joe Guerra. The junior proved to be a force on the back row as he led the Bruins in digs. Guerra was third in the GEL in digs for the season.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
The 2019 championships may be just the beginning for these programs. The Miners graduate three seniors in Mills, Depue and Dallago, but return impact players in Nowak, Quiggle, Myers, Youngman and Johnson. Next year’s Miners varsity team will also fold in a JV team which won the FVL’s junior varsity title.
The Bruins graduate just one senior from this year’s squad, and return their top two hitters, their starting setter and starting libero.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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