Granite Bay takes first section title with huge comeback

Down 2-0, Grizzlies recover to spike NU in championship game
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Innovators never seem to take the easy road, and doing anything for the first time almost always involves overcoming adversity. The Granite Bay High boys volleyball team had to travel a rough road to get there, but won the first ever Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball title in a thrilling five-game battle with Nevada Union Thursday night at Jesuit High School. With a large crowd on hand, including a strong contingent from the Nevada Union student body sitting at center court while sporting full face paint and color-coordinated attire, the mood in the gym was electric from the outset. Riding the emotion of its supporters, the Miners took the first two games, but the Grizzlies came back to win the final three in dramatic fashion to take a 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 16-14 victory. “Nevada Union gets a lot out of riding the emotional highs,” said Granite Bay coach Bruce Honberger. “We like to stay even and always feel that will carry us through.” Granite Bay powerhouse Jack Powell was swinging with full force early, driving home emphatic hits to key the early Grizzly success. Nevada Union had the answer, however, and behind a string of solid service points delivered by junior Jeff Sekerak, the Miners won five consecutive points to take an early 11-6 advantage in the first game. A quarter of seniors led Nevada Union to impressive wins in the first two stanzas, with setter Tyler Salcedo delivering scoring opportunities in every direction, while Lucas Parker, Justin Carroll and Cory George made the chances count. The situation did not look much better early in game three, as the Grizzlies, with their backs against the wall, fell behind by as many as four points midway through the game. A pair of big plays by Powell, sandwiched around a huge block by setter Mason Jaynes, finally pulled the Grizzlies even at 18-18. The squads traded serves to 22-22, and then Granite Bay took the final three points to claim the game and get back in the match. “We knew were not out of it at any point,” Honberger said. “We are great under pressure. That is why we play the tough schedule, to prepare us for matches like this one.” With its side of the crowd coming to life and riding the energy generated by huge kills from Powell and Mike Naki, the Grizzlies rolled Nevada Union in game four to force a decisive race to 15 points in a winner-take-all fifth frame. Powell converted on 22-of-42 kill chances in the contest, while Naki pounded home 13 winners. “Sometimes I get on Jack (Powell) a little to fire him up,” Naki said. “I like the emotional lift and when Jack gets mad, he plays even better.” Granite Bay got a huge lift from its bench in the fourth game, as Honberger spelled Powell a bit, turning to Tyler Towery when Powell’s spot moved to the back row, and using Garrick Monaghan for some important sequences up front. “We got a huge spark from Garrick in the fourth game,” Honberger said. “Jack swings so hard, so many times, and his legs get tired. We get great energy from Tyler Towery and Jack gets a little break.” Most of the concluding game was spent tied, or with a one-point advantage either way, but as the deciding stanza progressed, it looked like a Miner victory was on its way. Nevada Union took a 13-11 lead, but Naki answered with a huge kill. The Miners got to game point on a George blast, but Tom Patterson answered for the Grizzlies, sending himself to the service line needing to score a point to draw even at 14-14. “Tom is one of our most consistent servers and we were totally confident in his ability to handle the pressure serve in that situation,” Honberger said. “His ball flattens out and is very hard to return. After Nevada Union called a timeout to freeze the junior, he delivered three straight points and a Granite Bay title. A great wide ball forced the Miners to hit wide to equalize, and then Naki took over for the winning points. A sensational dig by libero Travis Wefald set the stage for Naki to pound home the 15th point on a Jaynes set, and then Naki finished the deal, providing the required two-point margin on a strong block that sent the Grizzly faithful into celebration. “I did not know I had it until he hit it,” Naki said, when asked about the game-winning block.” The win delivers a section title to Granite Bay in the first year such a crown is available. “I have been fighting for this moment for seven years,” Honberger said. “In the courts, and wherever we need to go, we fought to get a section title game and we would really like to be playing Bellarmine next in a Northern California final. Being first feels great especially since we feel like we could have won this the last five years.”