The Gilroy Mustangs haven’t been tested much this season. In
fact, they’ve swept each of their opponents in Tri-County Athletic
League play, with the exception of Monterey.
But when the San Benito Haybalers erased a 23-17 deficit in Game
2 on Thursday night in Hollister and grabbed a 24-23 lead, the
Mustangs dealt with the sudden case of adversity as if they had
been dealing with it all season.
The Gilroy Mustangs haven’t been tested much this season. In fact, they’ve swept each of their opponents in Tri-County Athletic League play, with the exception of Monterey.
But when the San Benito Haybalers erased a 23-17 deficit in Game 2 on Thursday night in Hollister and grabbed a 24-23 lead, the Mustangs dealt with the sudden case of adversity as if they had been dealing with it all season.
“We’ve been telling the kids to stay humble,” Gilroy head coach Scott Martin said. “Anyone can beat anyone on any given night, and the kids’ resolve this year has been outstanding.
“The kids will refocus, make one play, get a side-out and get the momentum back in our favor.”
And the plan worked accordingly.
Dietrich Baumgartner delivered a key block to knot the game at 24-all, San Benito committed two hitting errors to follow, and the Mustangs not only stole a pivotal Game 2, but also earned the sweep over San Benito 25-19, 26-24, 25-13 at Hollister’s Mattson Gym.
Gilroy is now 9-0 in the TCAL, with eight of its matches coming by 3-0 margins.
“The kids’ resolve and the fight they show,” Martin said, “that’s something Josh (Corioso) and I really can’t coach. But luckily, they have it.”
Rivalry matches are often circled on the schedule, but Thursday’s contest was perhaps circled, highlighted and bulleted for the Haybalers, which had previously lost to Gilroy in the season opener in three games.
That same week, though, at the Spring Fling in Aptos, San Benito eked out a three-set tournament victory over Gilroy, which instilled a bit of passion into the Baler boys entering Thursday’s rubber match.
“This was our chance for first,” San Benito opposite Roy Powell said. “This was the game I wanted most in all of my volleyball career.”
And the emotion displayed by the 6-foot-4 senior was noticeable on the floor. But after handling the stomach punch that was Game 2 — San Benito trailed Gilroy 2-0 instead of being tied at 1-1 — the Mustangs jumped out to a 6-1 lead in Game 3 behind an Albert Chavez kill and yet another Baumgartner block.
“I told them it’s 3 out of 5, not 2 out of 3,” San Benito head coach Erica Richardson said. “It’s not as if that doesn’t ever happen, but you’ve got to keep your game going.”
Although the Balers managed to show signs of life following a quick timeout, and managed to battle back to 9-7 in the third set, Gilroy pulled away for good when Baumgartner went off at the net, downing a block then pocketing a pair of kills.
He finished with nine kills and eight blocks in the match, and even delivered an ace in the third set to push Gilroy ahead, 18-8.
“I was expecting them to be a lot better, and they had gotten a lot better,” said Baumgartner. The 6-foot-2 junior noted how Gilroy’s five-set victory over Monterey on March 30 only helped the team on Thursday night against the Balers.
“It felt a lot like that, actually,” Baumgartner said. “It helped us get ready for this game.”
Powell said the end of Game 2 wasn’t as difficult to swallow as the start of Game 3, though. And the emotional play that was displayed in the first two games turned into borderline frustration in the third as the Mustangs went on an 11-2 run.
“That last game, that’s what happened to us,” Powell said. “We got frustrated because of our mistakes. We wanted to do better, but we couldn’t.”
The Balers fall to 7-3 in the TCAL as a result, 9-9 overall, but still control third place in the league by a two-game cushion over Salinas. Statistics for the Balers were not available at press time.
Gilroy’s Albert Chavez bookended the match with several kills at the start of Game 1, several more kills at the end of Game 3, and finished with 17 in all. Meanwhile, setter Gavin Menges had 29 assists in the match, and he remains the TCAL leader in that category midway through the season.
While Gilroy will look to continue its undefeated streak on Tuesday at home to Seaside — leading up to the May 6 rematch at Monterey — the Balers will seek a rebound victory on Tuesday when they will travel to Gonzales.
“We just didn’t play complete volleyball out there,” Richardson said. “It takes six (players) to win.”
TEAM 1 2 3
GILR 25 26 25
SANB 19 24 13