Boys Volleyball: Balers look to grow up fast

Jake Last delivers a kill in the team's win over Alvarez on Feb. 25.

What the San Benito High boys volleyball team lacks in experience, it hopes to make up for in maturing talent. First-year Haybalers coach Eric Adams sees plenty of promise with his team, even though some of his players are in their first year of playing the sport.
“We have a lot of new guys who have never played the game before,” he said. “A couple of them are seniors, but one of them is starting now.”
That would be 6-foot-2 middle blocker Jake Last, whose athleticism and potential was on display in the team’s win over Alvarez on Feb. 25. Last, who is also a standout water polo player, delivered a couple of emphatic kills.
“Jake knew some girls on the (girls) volleyball team, and they convinced him to try out for the team,” Adams said. “I had no expectation for him to be this good already. The athleticism catches you right off the bat, but he’s also a smart kid who picked up the rotations immediately. It’s rare to find a special talent like Jake. If he started playing as a freshman, he might have gone D-I (scholarship). It’s ridiculous how good he could be with a couple of more years of experience.”
Adams has been encouraged by the play of several other players, most of whom are sophomores. That’s a great sign for a San Benito team that peaked three years ago when it finished second in the Monterey Bay League with a superb 14-2 record.
“There is a ton of potential on this team, and right now we’re just working on timing and small fundamentals,” Adams said.
Indeed, the Balers looked out of sync at times against Alvarez, allowing balls to drop that should’ve been covered and making errors that against any other opponent would’ve been costly. However, Alvarez is a first-year program, and it had trouble simply performing the basics of the game.
Adams said some of the players who have impressed early in the season include sophomores Saul Martinez, Dominic Garcia, Jack Breger, Chris Gonzalez and Miguel Hernandez. Breger, an outside hitter and middle blocker, has tremendous physical talent, a player who has the potential to be downright dominating at times. Breger had a strong game in a three-game sweep of Gilroy on March 1.
“Like a lot of players on the team, I had only heard about Jack but had never saw him play,” Adams said. “I saw what I needed to the very first time he hit the ball. He’s got the highest vertical (leap) I’ve seen in a while. It’s almost like he’s hovering up in the air. He’s 5-11, but once he gets up there to hit a ball, it goes straight down. If all goes well, he’ll be one of our best players—if not our best player.”
A year ago, Garcia played libero. This season Garcia is playing outside hitter because of his ability to consistently hit the ball with authority.
“Dominic showed up in tryouts and started banging the ball,” Adams said. “I asked him if he was up for the challenge to play on the outside, and he said yes. I’ve really been impressed with his development.”
Gonzalez plays libero, and he’ll be counted upon to deliver solid passes and be scrappy defensively. Inexperienced teams often fall short in the passing department, but Adams is hoping the Balers mature in that area in rapid-fire fashion.
“Chris gives a great effort,” Adams said. “He’s the one on the team diving on balls and being scrappy.”
Adams has been impressed with Hernandez’s demeanor and determination. After being demoted from the varsity to the junior varsity squad last year, Hernandez has come back better than ever.
“This year he showed up as one of our best hitters,” Adams said.
Of course, no team can be successful without a strong setter, and that’s where Martinez comes in. The sophomore is the captain of the team, and Adams will rely on him to set the pace.
Adams said a pair of juniors—Ramiro Azcona and Dominic Souza—are expected to make an impact as well. Souza had some nice lively swings against Alvarez, and Azcona has performed admirably at multiple positions.
“Our season will come down to mental toughness and chemistry,” Adams said. “If we can nail those two things down, we’ll have the ability to finish in the top two in the league.”

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