With visiting Manteca leading Sierra two games to one in Valley Oak League boys volleyball action Tuesday night, the two teams were locked in a brutal fourth set with its 10th tie at 23-23.
The Buffaloes’ Connor Navarro then ended the longest rally of the night when the junior left-hander fooled the Timberwolves defense and sent a kill across its face for a 24-23 lead. Manteca would not trail again and came away with a 22-25, 25-17, 25-12, 26-24 win and in doing so claimed the outright VOL championship — its third in school’s short history in the sport.
“I jumped up a little late,” Navarro said of his pivotal point. “And then I realized they were going on my line block so I decided to put a little spin on it.
“I knew I could get it because I had been hitting at that angle the whole match. When it landed I just felt so good about it.”
As usual, Camden Steckler led the attack for the Buffaloes (9-0 VOL, 16-6 overall), but this time he did so with his 17 kills coming as much with finesse as power. He added five blocks and an ace.
“I am always looking to make the best play,” Steckler said. “Finding those little spots and being able to pick on them throughout the game keeps the opponent guessing on my hits.
“I want to put the balls in certain areas and keep them on their toes. Tonight I was working on keeping my hits a variety and at the highest percentage possible.”
Angel Rodriguez added 10 kills, Micah Crawford (ace) had five kills and Navarro four.
Setting up that ferocious Manteca attack was Jon Rosas with 34 assists and an ace. Daniel Pedroza chipped in four aces.
“This is a special thing,” Rosas said. “I have never set for a team like this before. This is a dream come true.
“This is the team I have wished for all of high school and I finally got it.”
From the opening serve to the final point, the atmosphere in the Sierra gym was electric.
“Boys volleyball in this town has never had a game with this atmosphere,” Buffaloes coach Jennifer Reis said. “I saw the origination of the boys league and been with it the last three years. To think of how far the sport has come and to have this atmosphere in Manteca is pretty cool.
“This is now a sport. Guys are getting into it and going on to the next level. As someone who loves volleyball, I am excited to see this level of play.”
Leading second-place Sierra (7-2, 10-6) with one game to go, Manteca’s next goal is to finish league play undefeated. Standing in the way will be visiting Weston Ranch on Thursday night at 6 p.m.
“Nobody is going to catch us, but we still want to be undefeated in league,” Reis said. “But we will have to fight for it.”
The raucous crowd energized the Timberwolves in their 25-22 opening-set win. David Caamano (ace, block) had five of his team-leading 10 kills in that set as well as five of his nine digs. Austin Kim (two assists) led the Sierra defense with 23 digs. Santino Flores (10 digs, five kills, block, ace), Arsh Dhaliwal (five blocks, five kills, dig), Noel Ruezga (14 assists, five kills, two aces, block) and Brian Huynh (12 assists, five kills, four aces, block) rounded out the Timberwolves attack.
“I am proud of the boys,” Sierra coach Amy Rosendin said. “We played really played hard. We obviously came out to win it in that first game.
“We hurt ourselves in the next two sets making errors and getting up in the net and they took those two and made us look not so good. But we came back roaring in that fourth game and we could have won it. It was just like the first time we played them and we knew it was going to be that way.”
The Timberwolves wrap up league play Thursday at 5 p.m. on the road against winless Central Catholic.
Manteca 2, Sierra 0
The Buffaloes clinched at least a tie for the VOL crown with the 25-16, 25-15 win.
Manteca’s Christian Pesqueda (block) and Johan Peringelil (two aces) posted four kills each and J.J. Manor added three. Yahir Martinez (ace) handed out seven assists and Fernando Lopez (kill) had three assists. Mark Bondoc had three aces and Andrew Rodriguez added a pair of aces.
Primo Estandarte had five kills and seven assists for the Timberwolves and Owen Altadana added four blocks and three kills. Bonpatrick Estrella made 20 digs.
The Buffaloes, undefeated in league play, host Weston Ranch on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the season finale. The lone loss for the Cougars was to Manteca so the Buffaloes need to win for the outright championship.