PREP VOLLEYBALL: Miners face off with El Camino for D-II crown; Bruins to battle Ripon Christian for D-III title | TheUnion.com

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Miners face off with El Camino for D-II crown; Bruins to battle Ripon Christian for D-III title

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

(All games Saturday at Whitney High School, Rocklin)

Division III

No. 3 Bear River (25-5) vs.

No. 1 Ripon Christian (20-2), noon

Division II

No. 1 Nevada Union (27-2) vs.

No. 6 El Camino (17-4), 3 p.m.

Division I

No. 1 Granite Bay (31-2) vs.

No. 2 Elk Grove (21-6), 6 p.m.

At this stage of the postseason, it often comes down to desire and focus.

Which team wants it more and can stay locked in long enough to ahcieve its goal.

Desire and focus is what Nevada Union head coach Lance Mansuetti said he needs from his players when they attempt to win the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship in boys volleyball.

“They have to want it more than the other teams out there,” Mansuetti said after NU topped Laguna Creek in the Section’s Division II quarterfinals. Mansuetti then put an emphasis on mental fortitude after his team’s semifinal win over Golden Valley Tuesday. “We can’t drop into a hole early… We need to come out with a sense of focus.”

For Bear River head coach Jon Good, whose Bruins are chasing the D-III title, a major key to earning the first boys volleyball Section championship in school history is getting off to a strong start.

“One of the keys is coming out fast. Coming out like I know we can, so we get that confidence early,” said Good. “We need to get that confidence so we don’t overthink the game. We’ll be in a gym with a lot of people, but I think if we come out swinging we will be alright.”

Good’s group of young and talented Bruins kick off a championship triple header today at Whitney High School in Rocklin. No. 3 seed Bear River (25-5) faces off with No. 1 Ripon Christian (20-2) for the Section’s D-II title at noon. Following at 3 p.m., No. 1 Nevada Union (27-2) takes on No. 6 El Camino (17-4) in the D-II championship. Closing the day is No. 1 Granite Bay (31-2) battling it out with No. 2 Elk Grove (21-6) at 6 p.m. in the D-I title match.

MINERS FACE EAGLES FOR D-II CHAMPIONSHIP

Nevada Union is back in a championship match for the fourth time since the section began hosting playoffs in 2009. The Miners were runner ups in 2009, 2014 and 2015. The past two seasons, NU reached the semifinals only to lose on the road to the eventual Section champ.

That was something Mansuetti and the Miners set out to avoid from the start of the season, making home court advantage in the playoffs a priority.

“We talked about it before we even started the season. Our goal was to get home court advantage,” Said Mansuetti. “The last two years we’ve lost in the semifinals at a hostile environment… That was one of our goals was to get home court throughout and it helped us get over the hump.”

The Miners went 24-2 in the regular season, including a perfect record on their home court. They were also a perfect 10-0 in Foothill Valley League play en route to the league championship. All that led to a No. 1 seed and home court throughout the playoffs. With the home crowd at their back Tuesday night an energized Miners squad overcame a sluggish start and finished strong to advance to today’s title game against El Camino.

El Camino is in the D-II title game after knocking off No. 11 Florin in the first round, No. 3 Placer in the quarterfinals and No.2 Vista del Lago in the semifinals. The Eagles head into the championship game having won nine straight.

The Miners are on a five match winning streak and have won 16 of their last 17 contests. NU is led by a bevy of hitters which includes senior Jordan Mills, junior Preston Nowak, senior Carter Depue, senior Cameron Dallago and junior Judah Myers.

Running the offense with precision all season long has been junior setter Colby Quiggle.

The Miners also get strong play from junior libero Jaycee Youngman and junior defensive specialist Sam Johnson.

BRUINS BATTLE KNIGHTS FOR D-III BANNER

The Bruins come into the D-III championship match having won 14 straight including a come-from-behind, five set semifinal win over No 2 El Dorado.

“We’re feeling really focused,” said Good. “We had a good couple days of practice. We’re feeling confident.”

Good took over Bear River’s volleyball program a season ago, and in his second year at the helm has the Bruins in a section title game for the first time in school history.

Good, a Bear River graduate, was a member of the 2001 Bruins boys team that went 34-0, but the Sac-Joaquin Section did not have boys volleyball playoffs at the time.

This year’s group of Bruins are a skilled and athletic bunch led by sophomore Jace Rath, who led the Golden Empire League in kills with 363. Rath’s kill tally is second in the Sac-Joaquin Section and 16th in the entire state.

Bear River also has quality hitters in junior Brad Smith, senior Noah Skowronski, junior Brekyn Vasquez and junior John Rice.

The offense is run with efficiency by junior setter Weston Prosser. And, the Bruins’ defense is led by junior libero Joe Guerra.

Good said his team really started to come together after a difficult early season tourney in which the Bruins played without three starters.

“We struggled down there, but ever since our team has been really together,” Good said. “Our passing has really improved, we have pretty good servers all the way around. Our offense has always been there, but with the passing and defense, it helps our offense run even more efficiently.”

The Bruins will be facing a Ripon Christian team which has won 17 straight. The Knights won the Trans Valley League title and has dropped only one set in the playoffs.

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


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