The Los Banos boys volleyball team seems to have found its niche.
The Tigers aren’t blessed with overwhelming size or a group of guys that can leap out of the building. What LB does possess is some experience via a handful of returners from last season’s inaugural campaign and above-average organization.
Greg Soliz’s squad communicates well and understands their roles. It may seem overly simplistic, but with so many athletes getting introduced to the sport for the first time around the Sac-Joaquin Section, the ability to remain calm and collected in clutch moments gives the Tigers an edge.
LB pressed that advantage with a second-place showing in the Sierra Tournament over the weekend and kept in going in a 25-23, 25-20, 25-23 victory at Livingston on Monday night.
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“The biggest thing for us is just being consistent,” Soliz said. “We’re not big, but as long as we play together and have a little sense of urgency, we should compete in every match. We’ve been in a number of tight games so far, and the kids have done a good job of staying organized in them.”
Maintaining that sense of calm when games get tight remains a work in progress for the Wolves (0-4 Western Athletic Conference).
Livingston got a big performance from Gary Singh on Monday night. The Wolves made a concerted effort to get their outside hitters more involved in the offense and Singh responded with a career-high 17 kills.
His inspired play had the Wolves within six points of victory or less in all three sets. Michelle Osmer’s squad came up empty in all three, however, as Los Banos (3-4, 2-2 WAC) made a run each time Singh went to the bench. The biggest collapse came in the opening set as a Singh kill gave the Wolves a 20-15 lead.
Singh was subbed out as he rotated to the back row and LB answered with a 7-0 run, including two big kills by Dustin Johnson to take a 21-20 lead. The Tigers never gave the lead back as a Nano Camirillo kill (team-high four kills, three aces) finished off the 25-23 win.
“I can’t tell you how many games we’ve lost this year by two points,” Osmer said. “We’re knocking on the door, but just haven’t been able to get through yet. Tonight we just didn’t have enough offense when Gary went to the bench. We could never seem to get through the rotation again to get him back on the court.”
The Tigers played a big part in that, upping that sense of urgency Soliz was talking about each time Livingston lost its biggest gun. The same formula held true in the second set as LB ran off six straight points behind Camirillo’s serve to turn a 19-18 deficit into 24-19 lead.
The third set was even tighter as the Wolves’ Germain Cruz recorded a kill to tie the match at 23-23. Back-to-back Livingston hitting errors finished things off, however, as Los Banos completed the sweep.
“We were coming in with a lot of hype after the Sierra Tournament,” Camron Franco said. “They got off to pretty good starts in each set, but we showed our heart. I feel like in pretty much every sport, the team that displays the most heart usually wins.”