Monterey ends ‘Balers’ hopes for TCAL championship and CCS
Hollister – San Benito was in an enviable position. Entering Tuesday night’s contest against Monterey, the ‘Balers knew that, with three more wins, the Tri-County Athletic League volleyball crown would be theirs. Unfortunately for the hosts, somebody forgot to tell Monterey not to ruin the party.

In front of a large and vocal crowd in Hollister, the Toreadors put an end to San Benito’s designs on a league title and resulting trip to the Central Coast Section Championships. After Monterey prevailed 28-26, 15-25, 25-23, 25-20, the ‘Balers can finish the season no higher than in second place.

After seeing the Toreadors (22-9, 13-2 TCAL) end San Benito’s TCAL-title dreams last year, ‘Balers senior Josh Brown was frustrated his team fell short once again.

“Last year, we lost the exact same way,” Brown said. “Monterey took the TCAL title away from us. Sorta the same thing this year.”

After splitting the first two games, the teams continued to show why they, along with Gilroy, have fought back and forth for the league lead all season. In the third game, Monterey ran off six straight points at the outset and took a quick 7-1 lead, only to see the ‘Balers roar back to grab an 8-7 advantage. San Benito then overcame three and four-point deficits to eventually knot the game at 20.

But the Toreadors showed their resolve by taking a 24-21 lead following blocks of Brown and fellow ‘Baler senior Jon Crepeau. Crepeau gave San Benito hope by hammering down a kill, but Monterey outside hitter Dominic Jackson helped the visitors close out the game with a decisive kill of his own.

Crepeau spoke of how the ‘Balers (14-11, 11-3 TCAL) paid dearly for never assuming control of the game.

“I think that when we had the lead, it wasn’t really secure,” Crepeau related. “We were teeter-tottering. We never got over to the other side of having a dominant lead.”

The resilient ‘Balers showed they wouldn’t go quietly, racing to a 10-5 lead in the fourth game. The teamwork the team used to stay atop the league standings all season was on full display with Anthony Parcell, Crepeau and Luis Rosales registering kills, and Parcell, Mack Hawkes and Brown recording blocks to spur San Benito to the hot start.

But Monterey showed that it, too, has the depth to wear down its opponent. With the Toreadors chasing down countless balls to keep points alive, their hitters converted ample opportunities to score points. Before the ‘Balers could turn the tide, Monterey took a 13-11 lead following a kill by Nick Mohr.

“They were picking up everything,” said San Benito head coach of the Toreadors. “They were flying all over the place. I think I had four or five heart attacks. This game is so stressful.”

Already trailing two games to one, San Benito was once again forced to play from behind. And the ‘Balers never caught Monterey in the decisive game.

San Benito pulled within one point three different times, the latest at 19-18, but never amounted the sustained rally needed to overcome the versatile Toreadors. Two errant serves and two balls hit into the net hampered the ‘Balers’ comeback attempt, but Monterey’s outside hitters ultimately proved the difference.

“We let them back in it,” San Benito head coach Luis Espinoza said. “They held onto that lead and wouldn’t let up. That’s how good Monterey is.”

After seeing San Benito prevail in a five-game thriller in Monterey on March 23, Toreadors head coach Dave Swartz was pleased his team carried out its gameplan better in the re-match.

“(Last night), we executed,” said Swartz, who noted his players’ ability to find open space down the left side as a key to the team’s success. “We just tried to serve … and make the setter take the first hit.”

San Benito enjoyed leads of 20-15 and 24-22 in the first game, but saw Monterey reel off three straight points down the stretch to eventually prevail 28-26.

The ‘Balers showed what they are capable of with a dominant performance in the second game, toying with the Toreadors behind several strong plays at the net by Brown and the all-around play of junior Jacob Lomanto.

Espinoza was left wishing his team played at that level the entire night.

“When we picked up our intensity … we came out like a bat out of hell,” the ‘Balers’ coach said.

But in the end, the ‘Balers were left wondering what might have been, a disappointing thought for the team’s seniors.

“It’s a bunch of hard work …” said Brown, his voice trailing off. “It sorta leaves a bitter taste in our mouth.”

Monterey visits Gilroy on Friday in what amounts to a contest for the TCAL championship. After the Mustangs’ three-game romp over Alisal Tuesday night, the Toreadors and Mustangs are tied for first place at 13-2. Only one TCAL team will advance to the CCS playoffs.

San Benito wraps up its season by visiting Salinas tomorrow and hosting Salinas on Friday.

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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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