PREP VOLLEYBALL: Miners strike gold, win Sac-Joaquin Section D-II Championship
MINERS 3, EAGLES 2
(21-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-9)
NU: Preston Nowak – 32 kills, 14 digs, 3 blocks
NU: Jordan Mills – 19 kills, 3 blocks, 3 aces
NU: Carter Depue – 10 kills, 5 blocks
NU: Colby Quiggle – 54 assists, 7 digs
ROCKLIN — After being so close so many times in the last decade, the Miners finally struck gold and claimed their first ever Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball championship.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Nevada Union outside hitter Preston Nowak after his team came from behind to beat El Camino and win the Section’s Division II Championship Saturday at Whitney High School.
The Miners had to dig deep for this title.
Facing the No. 6 seeded Eagles (17-5), the top seeded Miners (28-2) stumbled out of the gates and dropped the first two games, but made a frenzied charge down the stretch to win the match, 21-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-9.
“It feels so amazing,” said senior Jordan Mills, who battled through an injury and hammered down 19 kills to go with three aces. “Just the resilience of our team to be down 0-2 and come back like we did, get the crowd involved and just stay to it. This feels 10 times better than if we had gone out and paddled them 3-0. So happy we won this way. It’s incredible.”
El Camino looked to be headed for the championship early on, winning the first game and jumping out to an 19-8 lead in the second. The Miners found their stride about that time and went on a 15-5 run to pull to within one at 24-23. El Camino would get a kill to win the set, but the momentum had shifted to NU’s side of the net.
Before the third game, NU head coach Lance Mansuetti settled his team.
“I told them, ‘How many teams have we beat 3-0 this year? We can for sure go on a 3-0 run, but it starts with hard work and focus, and taking little bites,’ and that’s what they did. They just slowed the game down in their mind, and stuck with it.”
In the third game, the Miners broke a 14-14 tie with a Mills kill and never looked back, going on an 11-3 run to win the game and keep the match going. Nowak, Mills and Colby Quiggle came up with kills and Jaycee Youngman tallied an ace to spur the run.
“It was about energy,” said Nowak, who finished the match with a team-high 32 kills to go with 14 digs and three blocks. “We needed to have energy and we needed to want it more than they do, and that’s what we did.”
Mansuetti had high praise for the junior hitter.
“The future is bright for Preston,” Mansuetti said. “For a junior to play with his maturity and at that level of play is just amazing.”
In the fourth game, senior Carter Depue got things going with a kill. Nowak and Mills kept pounding away and the Miners built a 14-7 lead. The Eagles came soaring back and tied the game at 16-16, but a pair of Cameron Dallago kills put NU back out front. The Miners closed out the game with aces from Mills and Youngman, and a kill from Nowak.
With the match knotted at 2-2, the Miners opened the fifth game with a Depue kill. A Nowak kill was followed by three straight by Mills which staked the Miners to a 5-2 lead. After trading a couple points, NU’s Judah Myers notched an ace and the Miners scored on a block to go up 8-3. A Mills kill and an ace from the senior put NU up 10-4.
The Eagles didn’t go quietly and scored three straight to make it 10-7, but three Nowak kills and a Depue block finished off the match and put a Section title banner and a golden volleyball in the hands of the Miners.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” said Mansuetti, who led the Miners to the title in his fourth year at the helm. “I see them every day in the gym and I know their talent, but they can go out there and be a little quiet and on their heels a bit. But, it always fires me up when I see them get fired up, and to see that fire and fight come out of them; I’m very proud of them.”
Depue, a senior, finished with 10 kills and five blocks, one of which clinched the final game for the Miners.
“I love Carter’s passion and his fire,” Mansuetti said. “His block is just amazing and it’s fun for the other guys to play behind … He worked his butt off today.”
The Miners also got strong play from Quiggle, their junior setter, who doled out 54 assists to go with two blocks and seven digs.
Defensively, NU got solid showings from Youngman and Myers with 12 digs each. Dallago was strong at the net with five blocks to go with three kills.
Nowak noted the support from the parents and fans who made the trip to Rocklin was a big boost.
“Thank you to the parents,” Nowak said. “It was amazing to have them all out, with the cow bells and air horns, it means a lot.”
The trip to the championship match was NU’s fourth in school history. The Miners were Section runner ups in 2009, 2013 and 2014.
“Winning a section title for the first time ever means so much,” said Mills.
The Miners will now gear up for the CIF NorCal Division II Tournament, where they are the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Carmel at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Albert Ali Gymnasium.
Contact Walter Ford at 530-477-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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