Prep volleyball: Miners get back on court, crush Cougars
It had been more than a year since the last time the Nevada Union boys volleyball team faced an opponent at Albert Ali Gymnasium. Despite the long hiatus, the Miners shined on the court Thursday night and cruised to victory.
“It feels good to be back,” said NU team captain Eli Jones.
Nevada Union head coach Lance Mansuetti added, “It’s good to see the kids smiling and being in the gym.”
With a balanced attack and exceptional team chemistry, the Miners opened the 2021 season with a straight set victory (25-18, 25-15, 25-20) over the visiting El Dorado Cougars.
“We had a couple good practices, felt good coming in and and kept it rolling,” said Jones.
Thursday night’s match kicked off an abbreviated season for the Miners that runs until the end of May.
“I’m excited to get as many games in as possible,” said Mansuetti, who has led the Miners to three league titles and the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship since taking over the varsity team in 2016. “I really hope they take away a great experience.”
It was two years ago the Miners went 29-3 overall and won the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division II championship. They had hopes of repeating in 2020, but the season was canceled due to COVID-19 just three games in.
This season, the Miners have a truncated schedule that runs until the end of May.
A chance at another Section title will have to wait as there won’t be playoffs this season, per the COVID-safety guidelines in place, but the Miners still plan on competing at their usual elite level and have fun doing it.
In front of a limited crowd of masked spectators on Thursday night, the Miners certainly looked to be having good time.
“It’s about having fun, of course, and just competing everyday,” said Jones. “We have good chemistry, and some pretty good athletes as well.”
Mansuetti had high praise for his captain.
“(Jones) is undersized for a middle, but super smart,” Mansuetti said. “He won’t make a lot of mistakes and will score a lot of points because of his IQ,”
NU’s other senior captain is Joe Pardini. Jones and Pardini are the only two holdovers from the 2019 title team. Both were junior varsity call ups for the postseason run.
The Miners also have a leader in Aidan Wahl, who said the Miners’ strength this season is their on-court chemistry.
“We have good cohesion, we all know each other really well and know each other’s tendencies,” said Wahl, who plans to continue playing volleyball at Westcliff University in Irvine after graduation. “We probably shouldn’t lose a single game all season.”
The athletic senior led NU’s offensive attack Thursday night, hammering down kills with power throughout the match.
“Aidan is probably going to be our superstar this year,” said Mansuetti. “He hits hard and he’s a super high jumper. He’s for sure going to be our leader.”
The Miners also got a boost from recent addition J.T. Conway, who had just one practice before taking the court against El Dorado. The 6-foot, 7-inch Conway, wasted little time making an impact at the net, scoring multiple blocks and kills for the Miners.
“J.T.’s been to one practice and he’s already doing amazing,” said Mansuetti.
Conway is a busy Miner. The senior played on the football team this year, and is also on NU’s baseball and basketball teams. All of which overlap.
Defensively, NU’s libero Isaac Frazier impressed with several difficult digs to prevent El Dorado points.
Fellow Miners Ty Brook, Brady Mills and Saxon Moseman also contributed to the opening night victory as well.
“I really like their camaraderie,” Mansuetti said of his team. “They get along well. They play well together and they have great attitudes.”
Next up for the Miners (1-0) is a home bout against Placer on Wednesday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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