San Benito makes it sixth in a row over league opponents
Morgan Hill – Yes, the San Benito boys volleyball team won its game against Sobrato Tuesday night. But the Haybalers were supposed to win. What was troubling for San Benito – both its players and its coach – was how the team secured its victory.

“We come here knowing we’re going to win, but then we play down to (the Bulldogs’) level,” said ‘Balers junior setter Jacob Lomanto. “We think it’s a pushover game because we’ve beaten them in the past, no problem.”

San Benito did prevail in three games – winning 27-25, 25-5, 25-15 – but the ‘Balers very nearly suffered an embarrassing, opening-game loss and let Sobrato hang around far too long in the third.

‘Balers head coach Luis Espinoza believes he has a quality team, but said he wishes that his players would bring their intensity and focus no matter the opponent.

“It’s tough to see ’em play out there (as they did against Sobrato) when I know how we can play,” said Espinoza, whose team nevertheless has won six consecutive Tri-County Athletic League games. “We’re not up to par. I think we’re in a slump right now…Even though we’re winning the games.”

Facing the young Bulldogs – a team that has won only one match and just three games all season – San Benito saw its opponent overcome a 22-16 deficit in the first game to put the ‘Balers on the brink of a disastrous start. After seeing Sobrato (1-9, 1-8 TCAL) streak to a 24-23 lead, the ‘Balers regrouped to win four of the next five points and squeeze out the game.

After seeing the result of playing the first game without two of his three seniors – Jon Crepeau (ankle injury) and Josh Brown (illness) – Espinoza inserted Crepeau for the remainder of the contest at less than full strength to clean up the team’s performance.

The shift worked wonders in the second game as San Benito (11-8, 8-1 TCAL) reeled off 12 consecutive points to secure a dominant 25-5 victory over the shell-shocked Bulldogs. But the ‘Balers’ lack of focus returned early in the third game as the visitors fell into a 10-8 hole at the hands of poor execution.

The most hotly-contested point of the night came with Sobrato leading 13-12. The teams traded strong digs and Bulldog freshmen Jose Sims and Shawn Tharayil deflected several of the ‘Balers’ kill attempts as the rally continued. San Benito eventually prevailed on a Bulldogs’ double hit, but Sobrato head coach Rosemary Miller exploded off the bench in applause to commend her players for their fantastic effort.

“I was happy they’re playing competitive now,” said Miller, who viewed the effort as a microcosm of her team’s determination amidst the doldrums of a building season. “We haven’t given up. We haven’t given up. They did great. I’m so happy.”

After a San Benito timeout, the ‘Balers closed out the match by allowing the Bulldogs just two more points as Crepeau and outside hitter Luis Rosales took over down the stretch.

Asked to assess San Benito’s performance, Rosales said: “I think we should’ve played better. We should’ve scored more points in the first and last game. … (In the second game), our intensity was up high. We were forcing them to make mistakes and not making mistakes of our own.”

Rosales led the ‘Balers with a match-high nine kills, and senior outside hitter Anthony Parcell contributed seven kills and two blocks. Sophomore David DelaCruz posted eight digs, while junior Chris Flippo recorded four service aces. Crepeau finished with six kills in two games.

Sobrato was led by the net play of Sims and Tharayil, as well as the all-around game of freshman Jared Mammen, who contributed four kills and five digs.

San Benito returns to the court Wednesday when it hosts Mt. Madonna in what Espinoza believes will be a tough, non-league match.

“They’re a very high-caliber team,” said San Benito’s coach. “If we play like we did tonight, it’s going to be a quick three-and-out for us.”

The San Benito-Mt. Madonna contest is set to begin at 7pm in Hollister.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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