It wouldn't be surprising to learn if Golden Valley volleyball coach Matt Thissen had been spending most of his free time looking up his players' injuries on WebMD.
In the past two weeks he's had players out with shoulder tendonitis, a concussion, a pinched nerve and a rolled ankle.
The Cougars were finally at full strength on Tuesday night and it showed as they swept Merced 25-19, 25-15, 25-22 at Cougar Arena.
"First and foremost, it gives us a different confidence level when we have everyone back," said Thissen, whose team improved to 3-2 in the Central California Conference and 5-3 overall. "It also gives us different options."
Junior Belen Castillo returned to the Cougars lineup after missing the last two matches with shoulder tendonitis.
Castillo was almost perfect against the Bears (3-2 CCC), recording 18 kills on 21 attempts. She had no hitting errors.
"Belen is going to have a lot more volleyball in her life after high school," Thissen said. "We wanted to be cautious. She has a gift in her right arm."
Merced didn't look anything like the team that gutted out a five-game win over Atwater last week after losing the first two games.
The Bears never got in a rhythm offensively. In the first two games they didn't string together more than three points in a row and then in the final they let a 16-9 lead evaporate.
"We had no heart tonight," Merced coach Marcia-Maria Rosson said. "Unfortunately the fight and the Bears volleyball we had been playing didn't show up in the gym tonight.
"It's extremely disappointing. Golden Valley is a good team. I don't want to take anything from them, but our team wasn't out there on the court tonight."
The Cougars earned a lot of points with their serves. It wasn't just the 12 aces they recorded, including five from Kendra Barraso, but the Golden Valley service game gave the Cougars the upper hand early.
Aggressive serving was a focal point this summer. Thissen said he is willing to give away three or four bad serves in a game if it will help his team out overall.
"It's a risk-reward type of thing," he said. "When we're not on it can look really bad. But when we're on it can look like it did tonight. You just hope those bad serves don't come at the wrong time."
It was Barraso's aggressive serving that helped the Cougars come back from the 16-9 deficit in the third game.
Barraso recorded two aces as Golden Valley ran off nine straight points to take a 17-16 lead. Castillo also chipped in with three thunderous kills.
"I thought our serves were very effective tonight," Thissen said. "Kendra Barraso did a great job. I thought Camille Flores ran the offense well. (Merced) gave her opportunities to play the second ball over the net by giving her the middle and she took advantage of it."
Erika Beaudry led the Bears with 23 assists and three blocks.
Atwater 3, Buhach Colony 0
ATWATER Hannah Van Warmerdam's 17 kills and Abby Knapp's seven blocks paced the Falcons to a 25-15, 25-22, 25-15 win.
Lichen Denouden added 28 assists for Atwater (2-3 CCC).
Le Grand 3, Waterford 0
WATERFORD Savanna Barnett recorded 15 kills and seven aces as the Bulldogs remained unbeaten in the Southern League at 4-0 with a 25-15, 25-15, 25-8 win.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.