GARDEN VALLEY — Both coaches had similar thoughts about Wednesday’s Sierra Valley League volleyball match between visiting El Dorado and Golden Sierra. “It was a great match. I’m so proud of my boys,” said the Grizzlies’ Glenn Linka and Cougar coach Alan Magat.
After Golden Sierra pulled out a five-set victory with Jim Hansen’s powerful block that landed down the line, the Grizzlies celebrated their first ever league win over El Dorado 15-12.
“We knew this was one of the teams we had to beat to get to the playoffs,” said Hansen, one of the Griz captains. “Every point was tough. They (Cougars) came back in the second game and we said we had to come together and we needed no unforced errors. Our passing was good and we had good sets. It was definitely a team effort. I’m really proud of how we played tonight.”
Battling back from a four-point deficit, Golden Sierra took a 7-5 lead in the first game and never looked back, cruising to a 25-16 win behind kills from Connor McDonald, Hansen, Brian Cann and Zach Marshall. Rocky Sacks’ tip put the game in the books.
But after switching benches, the Cougars answered with back-to-back 25-21, 25-23 victories to take a 2-1 match lead. The Cougars needed just one more game to put the match away and led for the first few minutes of the fourth set behind the play of Daniel Vance at the net, Cody Neimann’s kill down the line and a combo block from Niemann and Brad Schmidt.
Sacks’ kill cut the deficit to a point but after Schmidt answered, the Grizzlies got help from an El Dorado serve that sailed long and a net violation. Marshall’s block gave Golden Sierra its first lead in the set and from there the teams battled point-for-point until Hansen’s kill forced a sideout and his subsequent four-point service run had the Griz on top 16-13.
“They played their game. We didn’t,” Vance said. “We didn’t put passes together and we are missing some pieces (from the lineup).”
Vance was referring to the absence of outside hitter Nick Warren, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury.
“Not having our year-round player hurt,” Magat said about Warren. “He’s a real big force for us. But I was proud that the boys didn’t let that affect them. It gave others opportunities and we grew as a team tonight. It was evident that everyone worked hard out there.”
The Grizzlies took a 19-14 lead with blocks from Marshall and Artis Meyer and Cann’s kill that deflected off a Cougar. But El Dorado wasn’t done, clawing its way back to tie the game at 22-all with Neimann’s tip and a kill from Dylan Seller that split a pair of blockers.
The Cougars grabbed a one-point lead on a missed back set by Golden Sierra and a kill that landed out. After a timeout, Grizzly Gracen Christiansen’s save of an errant ball out of the net and Sacks’ kill tied the game at 23. A Cougar kill that landed out made it set point and Hansen’s tip put the Grizzlies’ 25-23 victory away, sending the contest into the fifth-game decider.
The fifth set was a nail-biter with four ties and two lead changes, but once the Grizzlies took a 10-9 lead behind Meyer’s set to Marshall for a soft tap that found the floor, Golden Sierra scratched out each point. Neimann’s kill down the line made it a one-point, 13-12, game but Hansen responded with a kill and the match-ending block.
“This was a flip-flop from Monday night (loss to Union Mine),” Linka said. “The kids played super tonight. I didn’t say much to them — I let them build their own momentum and other than making a few minor adjustments I left it up to them. This was a great match for spectators.”
Before Wednesday’s match the Diamondbacks led the standings with a 5-0 record, El Dorado and Vista del Lago were tied for second at 4-1 and Golden Sierra was third at 3-2. The top three teams advance to the playoffs.