Volleyball: Balers can’t finish Cougars

Leonel Salazar Romero, seen here in earlier action this season, has been solid at times for the Balers.

Tuesday’s match between the Christopher High and San Benito High boys volleyball teams featured one of the favorites to win the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division against one of the more inexperienced squads. Experience won over youth as the Cougars rebounded from a Game 1 loss to beat the host Haybalers in four games.
Game scores were 14-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-12. Christopher (5-1 overall, 2-0 league) was coming off a strong performance in the Leland Tournament last Saturday. Despite entering the tournament ranked 12th out of 12 teams, the Cougars finished 2-2 and ended up in the gold bracket, or the highest group of teams.
“It was a good day for us,” Christopher coach Kevin Bruce said. “It was a tough and emotional tournament, and we’re still drained from it. We usually take a little while to warm up, but once we get going, we tend to pick it up.”
The Balers (5-6, 0-2) found that out the hard way. After winning the opening game, they were steamrolled in the next three.
“I would just call it a meltdown of some sort,” Balers coach Eric Adams said, referring to the team’s finish. “I wouldn’t even know how to describe it. The ref made one bad call and suddenly the guys lost interest in playing—that’s what it seemed like to me.”
Christopher simply had too much firepower, as outside hitter Matt Vidito delivered a number of kills with authority. Middle blocker Brevin Zollinger was also a force, and outside hitter Alec Menacho has been a constant source of offensive firepower throughout the season.
San Benito, meanwhile, has hit some road bumps in league play. After the Balers won Game 1, they started committing a number of mental and physical errors. Adams admitted afterward that he should not have gotten frustrated after a couple of questionable calls didn’t go the team’s way in Game 2.
“If I’m pissed at a call, the guys can think, ‘Well, it’s the call, not us,’” Adams said. “They can think it’s on the refs, not on us. I kind of set the pace here, and I can’t get that frustrated. (Once we got down) the will to win was gone.”
Despite the loss, the Balers are optimistic they can turn things around. For one, they’ve shown flashes of brilliance when they communicate and hustle on every point. They also have some young talent in the form of sophomore Jack Breger, who is one of the most athletic players on the team.
“As usual, Jack played well, but we have to find a way to get him the ball (more often),” Adams said. “It all starts with passing, and that’s what we’ll hit up hard in practice.”
Adams was also pleased with the play of junior Brad Dickson and senior Luis Coronado, both of whom have received more playing time lately because of their work ethic and positive attitudes.
“I put Luis in the back row today in three of the four games, and he was amazing,” Adams said. “He reads the offense really well, and as far as effort and positioning is concerned, he’s fantastic. Brad has been practicing really well. He’s been hitting at the 4 and 5 (left front and left back positions) extremely well. I think going forward he’ll be one of my starters.”
Adams knows his players must get mentally tougher. The Cougars displayed resolve after losing Game 1, and the Balers must show similar persistence if they plan on competing for a strong league finish.
“The talent is there, the mental toughness is not,” Adams said. “You look at Christopher and they had the mental toughness down. That’s where we need to be.”

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