An obvious difference in Tuesday’s Ponderosa-Del Oro semifinal Sac-Joaquin Section Division I match was 6-foot, 8-inch Golden Eagle Connor Drake. To the Bruins, the difference was 6-1 setter Mason Humes.
Ponderosa swept Del Oro earlier in the season with Drake but not Humes. With Humes the tables turned as the visitors defeated the Bruins 25-16, 25-20, 25-21 to advance to Friday’s championship against Nevada Union.
With Humes running the show, Drake dominated. Ponderosa had no answer defending the one-sets and offensively the Golden Eagles made the Bruins work for each and every point.
“A good setter makes all the difference,” Ponderosa coach Amy Stockett said. “We knew coming in that Drake was their go-to hitter and he had a great match. I don’t think we ever stopped him. Del Oro brought it (tonight) for sure.”
Not exactly the ending Stockett, who’s stepping down after 14 seasons as a Bruin volleyball coach, envisioned.
“This was my best season with varsity. Undefeated in league and to beat Jesuit and Oak Ridge twice,” Stockett said. “Being the league champs is a nice note to end on.”
The Golden Eagles shook off an early 3-0 deficit in the opening set to zoom into the lead behind the play of Drake, Humes, Jacob Tarabetz, Logan Cole, Isaac Jorgensen and Andreas Lees.
Del Oro, with near flawless play, kept momentum for the second set as Ponderosa’s hitters Tanner Charron, Haward Gomes and Kristian Charron tried to adjust against the effective Golden Eagle block.
Mid-set, the Golden Eagles pulled away. The Bruins were within 23-20 on Gomes’ wind-up but tap to the middle before a serve that found the net and Hume’s kill off a Ponderosa dig had the hosts’ back to the wall.
Though Del Oro raced to an 8-2 advantage in the third set, its play began to slip — that and the fact the Bruins fought feverishly to prolong the season.
Charron’s block and his thundering kill gave Ponderosa its first lead at 11-10. As the score went back-and-forth, the Bruins created some space on Charron’s ace and Taylor Charron’s redirection hit.
With Tanner, Gomes, Kevin Salluce, Kristian Charron and Josh Bist at the net, Taylor setting and Nic Davis defending, Ponderosa reached deep to pull out the set.
With their crowd behind them, the Bruin led 18-15 before Del Oro quickly closed the gap to tie. Ponderosa’s last leads were 19-18 as Gomes scored on a tipped kill and 20-19 as Drake’s spike sailed long for one of the few Eagle mistakes.
Del Oro landed three late aces, including Cole’s back-to-back for points 24 and 25 to end the Bruins’ season.
“We’re really evenly matched teams but it was the little mistakes we made and they didn’t that cost us,” Tanner said. “We all had the urge to step up (in the third set) and came out screaming which built up our momentum and pushed us into the lead.”
Tanner had 12 kills, Gomes 11 and Kristian, 7. Taylor had 30 assists; Salluce two blocks and Davis 27 serve receives.
Ponderosa final overall record is 18-10.