Volleyball: Balers to play Monterey for TCAL championship

San Benito's Isaiah Acfalle slams a kill past two Watsonville defenders during the Balers TCAL playoff win. 

Draped in upper-right wall of Mattson Gym, the boys league-championship banner lists only two titles under volleyball. With the Balers 3-0 victory over Watsonville on Tuesday, the boys volleyball team positioned itself one win away from adding a third.

Against Watsonville, which finished the season 13-3 in the Tri-County Athletic League’s Coastal Division, the Balers used a fast tempo to overwhelm the Wildcatz and clinch a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs.

The three-game match ended within an hour, and San Benito trailed only twice to open the second and third games. Overall, it was an easy victory for the 28-4 Balers.

“We are angry about how last year finished and we came back, and this is what we’ve been looking forward to all year,” senior captain David Hawks said. “To play in these games — the ones that really matter — is great. So we came out strong with a lot of energy and that’s how we will play the rest of the year.”

Last year, the Balers lost to Monterey at home in the first round of the TCAL tournament. Avenging that loss was a season-long goal for San Benito.

“It was really important,” Robert Henderson said. “This is the first time we’ve gone to the championship in a while and we only have one TCAL win up there so we are looking to put up another one. It’s just a big win for our seniors. They only have a couple of games left so it would be great to do it for them.”

The win, though, gives the Balers some momentum moving into the CCS playoffs, head coach Emily Tonascia said.

“What we wanted to do in this game, we accomplished,” she said. “We were running the plays we wanted to run. We were hitting the spots that we wanted to serve. It was really on this game. It contributed to the overall feel and it gives us the momentum to win in the next game.”

Despite the three-game win, it took San Benito some time to find its footing.

In the opening game, the Wildcatz and Balers traded points until San Benito seized control at 13-13. The Balers grabbed eight of the game’s next 10 points to take control.

“With a lot of the games this year we’ve started slow but our captains Dave (Hawks) and Isaiah (Acfalle) brought us together and just said let’s put this away and start playing how we can play,” Henderson said.

And San Benito did.

Behind Acfalle’s team-high 11 kills, San Benito controlled the rest of the first game for a 25-20 win.

That momentum quickly carried over to the second and third games for the Balers. After falling behind 0-2 to Watsonville in the second, San Benito took advantage of an unforced error by Watsonville’s Armando Torres.

The young Wildcatz started to struggle returning San Benito shots and staying within the court’s boundaries, as the Balers leapt out to a 10-5 lead.

Henderson and Acfalle controlled the attack for San Benito. Acfalle’s behind-the-back kill turned momentum toward San Benito for good. San Benito finished the match with 25-18 wins in the final two games.

“We finally found our rhythm in the game and we took off after we found our it,” Hawks said. “We got our timing down on the sets and our passers continued to step up as the game went on. It makes it easier to run the offense that way.”

Hawks contributed three aces and 34 assists to the victory. Libero Dylan Lomanto finished with 18 digs to lead San Benito.

The victory gives San Benito a chance to win its second TCAL title and third league title Thursday. To get that third title, the Balers host Monterey on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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