After losing their 2-0 lead, in Tuesday’s Monterey Bay League match with Notre Dame, San Benito volleyball seniors Ellie Burley and Raelynn Heredia decided to take over.
The duo combined for eight of the Balers’ game five points, to lift San Benito into sole possession of second place inside the MBL’s Gabilan Division with a 3-2 win over the Spirits.
It was an up-and-down match for the Balers, which saw them shoot out to a 2-0 (25-13, 25-21) lead before losing consecutive games (22-25, 21-25).
“Well, we knew there was going to be a lot of adversity,” head coach Dean Askanas said. “That’s what we were practicing yesterday. The were going over drills that we find difficult – mentally difficult and emotionally difficult. I kept making them go through the same thing, just because I knew there was going to be so much adversity tonight.”
He continued: “I was surprised with games one and two. I really didn’t think we were going to sweep them and we didn’t. They came back and it was anyone’s game in game five.”
But that close play, was a good thing for San Benito, Heredia said.
“We do way better in these tight situations,” she said. “I don’t know, we just come together as a team. And I think that’s what makes us stronger. I would rather play those games than win it in three.”
Early in the contest, a fifth game would have been a surprise. San Benito dominated the first game behind a strong play from hitters Erica Chapa and Burley. San Benito kept pressure on the Spirits, forcing seven first game errors.
But it was the second game where the Balers looked like they would come away with an easy match win. Falling behind 17-21, San Benito made its move. Behind strong defense from Heredia – including three aces – and strong play from Chapa and Bailey Nelson, San Benito scored the game’s next eight points to win.
In the next two games, though, San Benito struggled to find consistency. Its hitters couldn’t score, and Notre Dame began to find holes in the Baler defense. Quickly, the match was tied at two.
“We got into some bad rotations,” Askanas said. “We needed to rely on our second outside … and they weren’t producing in the games three and four. Ellie was kind of doing everything. And when she went to the back row we would struggle.”
That didn’t happen in the deciding fifth game, though.
After a slow, band-and-forth start, San Benito slowly started to build a lead in the final game, winning 15-11. Burley and Heredia dominated play, keeping rallies alive and scoring.
“I think it was Rae and Ellie sort of handling everything,” Askanas said. “I would say it was a great team effort but it was a bit of the Rae and Ellie show there.”
Burley won the game, scoring the match’s final points.
“It was exciting,” she said. “I feel like having to fight back made us pay better as a team. Instead of going three straight, it was more of fight. We play better when we are in that situation.”
Burley finished with a game-high 21 kills and Heredia finished with 42 digs. Chapa finished with 17 kills in the victory.
The victory gives San Benito a 5-1 record inside league play and an overall record of 13-9. San Benito has now won five straight games inside the MBL, after losing its opener to Salinas.
The Balers will attempt to earn a split with the Cowboys on Thursday when they travel to Salinas at 6:30 p.m.