Hollister’s Henry Schwarzwaelder reaches for the ball during the volleyball team’s April 30 game against Seaside. Photo: Chris Mora

The Hollister boys volleyball team closed the regular season with a gut-check win April 30 over on the coast at Seaside, beating the Spartans 11-25, 26-24, 25-12, 25-18. The victory gave the Balers a third consecutive solid season with a 21-15 overall record, and 6-4 for third place in the challenging Pacific Coast Athletic League, Gabilan Division.

Henry Schwarzwaelder led the Balers with 13 kills, though it took the entire team to overcome the hyped home team on their Senior Night. In the 6-2 offense of coach Adrian Masoni, Carlos Garcia dished 17 assists and Abraham Corona set 11 assists, while adding four kills. Ivan Carmona, Rony Salas-Ramirez and Diego Martinez-Ruiz all had four kills each. 

Hollister’s defense was led by liberos Adair Benavides and Blake Maddux, each getting action in different sets.

With the third-place league finish, Hollister advances to a Central Coast Section play-in game May 2 at Everett Alvarez, champion of the lower PCAL Cypress Division. The winner receives an automatic bid into the CCS playoffs. Masoni feels that success during a tough schedule has generated enough points in the CCS qualification system to garner an at-large bid in the event of a loss to the Eagles. The brackets and matchups will be determined by the CCS on Saturday.

On Tuesday—against a Seaside squad they beat in five sets back on April 11 behind 25 Schwarzwaelder kills—the Balers looked flat in the opening set. The team then rebounded to capture a dramatic, tense second set, rolled decisively in the third and held firm to win the fourth.

“They were hyped up; it was their senior night,” Garcia said. “We knew we had to pick it up. Forget the first set and move on. Our energy turned it around. Playing as a team, on the court and off. Everyone hitting the ball.”

Luis Ruiz and tall middle Mason Faatuai led Seaside in the early stages. The second set was tight throughout, as the Balers sought to even matters at a set each rather than fall into a 2-0 hole. Down the stretch of that set, Schwarzwaelder and Griffin Alvernaz combined for a key double block and Schwarzwaelder and Martinez-Ruiz had big kills.

“Sometimes it only takes one play to turn things around and that brings our energy,” Schwarzwaelder said, “We recognized it and we knew it needed to change after that first set. Losing wasn’t an option.”

With the match even at 1-1, Hollister came roaring out of the blocks in the third set with a dominant performance. Garcia started it with two aces as part of an incredible 12-0 opening run. Corona belted three kills and Salas-Ramirez had two more in the early explosion as the red-clad Balers stunned Seaside and the home fans. The Hollister faithful roared in delight, and HHS coasted to a 25-12 win.

“It took a lot of mental maturity to rebound after the first set and play the way we can,” Masoni said. “They proved they can do that. I mixed the lineup a bit but it was mostly them hearing the message and seeing the result. We started playing at the level we can play.”

The net play was superb, the hustling defense was picking balls up all over the court, and the attack operated at high efficiency. Success in the middle, often with Alvernaz, opened up the pin attack of Schwarzwaelder and others as Seaside couldn’t bunch their defense on the outside.

The fourth set was dead-even much of the way. At 16-16, Hollister pulled away and slammed the door on the Spartans. Alvernaz pounded two kills from the middle, Salas-Ramirez crushed a cross-court rocket for a winner and Schwarzwaelder used his wicked tough topspin serve for an ace. The Balers closed on a 9-2 rush to capture the set and take a victory back home.

In season stats, Schwarzwaelder leads with 395 kills and a superb .303 attack percentage. He has the most blocks with 38 and contributes with athletic defense when he rotates into the back row. Martinez-Ruiz has 172 kills, Corona 105, Alvernaz 95 and Salas-Ramirez 82. Benavides paces the defense with 3.4 digs per set.

“We run a 6-2, with two setters,” said Masoni, who played on Hollister’s first boys volleyball team back in 1997. “We run with the hot hand. Playing time is earned. They respond well to that. A winning program demands competition. And they all support one another.”

Hollister succeeds with depth. Big contributions also come from Giovanni Stotler, Manuel Ontiveros, Nicholas Haro and Gavriel Arredondo 

“It’s been a really good season,” Garcia said. “We had a rough start. It was a new team. Then we started to mesh.”

After a 6-7 start, the Balers won 15 of the next 23 matches. Masoni intentionally put together a competitive schedule to harden the squad and give them experience that helps in pressure-filled points like the end of the second set on April 30 or in the playoffs.

“We started off tough,” Schwarzwaelder said. “We made tons of growth. We started playing together better.”

An upswing in the program began with the 2021-22 squad, which finished 19-15 and 6-6 in fourth place in the Monterey Bay League, Gabilan Division. Last year’s team had a 21-11 record, 9-5 in the PCAL Gabilan Division, good for fourth place. The Balers lost their CCS opener to Evergreen Valley.

“I’m happy with our record and where we stand,” Masoni said. “It was a tougher schedule and that helps in moments like tonight. Our goals for the season are that we have bigger fish to fry. We want to compete and win in the playoffs.”

Abraham Corona and his Hollister teammates celebrate a play during the April 30 game against Seaside. Photo: Chris Mora
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