VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs fall in four to Balers

Gilroy's Erin Chislom sets the ball during the second game of

The Balers (8-8 overall, 1-2 TCAL) jumped out to a 2-0 match
lead, withstood a Mustangs’ rally in the third set and eventually
silenced the home team, picking up their first Tri-County Athletic
League victory of the season 25-14, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17 on Thursday
night in Gilroy.
Numbers don’t lie, in fact, they can be incriminating.

The San Benito Haybalers volleyball team roamed the hardwood collecting nearly 100 digs, while rival Gilroy High committed 23 unforced errors – evidence enough to formulate an outcome.

“Their defense is awesome, but we had our chances to put balls away,” GHS head coach Josh Corioso said. “We are making too many errors. The last game against Notre Dame, I think we had 28 errors. That many errors will kill anybody.”

The Balers (8-8 overall, 1-2 TCAL) jumped out to a 2-0 match lead, withstood a Mustangs’ rally in the third set and eventually silenced the home team, picking up their first Tri-County Athletic League victory of the season 25-14, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17 on Thursday night in Gilroy.

“We will take any win we can get, but I think we are capable of playing better,” San Benito head coach Dean Askanas said. “(Gilroy) played really well. They really swung hard and put the pressure on us. I think we can clean it up and put in a little better effort.”

Despite facing a plethora of attacks, the Balers left little room on the floor for Mustangs’ conversions. San Benito libero Sara Yamasaki was busy throughout the contest, recording 29 digs from the back row.

“That’s a lot of digs for a four-game match,” Askanas said.

The defensive contributions were widespread for the Balers. Mari Vallejo chipped in 24 digs, Melyssa Martinez had 13, Ellie Burley dug out 11 and Jessica Steigelman posted 10.

“Our defense has been our forte at this point,” Askanas said.

The Mustangs (5-3 overall, 1-2 TCAL) had won its last five matches before two straight league losses this week.

“We should definitely be minimizing our errors at this stage of the season,” Corioso said.

The Balers breezed to a first-set victory, turning a slim 12-8 advantage midway through into an all-out assault, finishing the set on a 13-6 run.

The Mustangs began to settle in, soaring to a 17-9 lead in the second set behind key kills from Demornay Granado, Randi Groppe, Randi Rodgers and Gabby Flores.

A momentum-buffering timeout by Askanas cooled off the fiery Mustangs and the Balers began their comeback, turning to Burley to carry the load.

An 8-1 run ensued after the Balers’ timeout, including six kills from Burley, leaving the situation at 18-18.

“We went to her a lot,” Askanas said of his sophomore outside hitter. “She was playing middle earlier in the season. We switched her to the outside and she’s been doing really well.”

Burley finished with 14 kills.

After Katherine Breger threaded one of her eight kills on the night, the Balers benefited from two Mustangs’ mistakes to claim the 25-22 set win.

“I think it was nerves,” Groppe said. “A lot of the girls know each other, so there is a lot of pressure, friendly competition. I think now that we have played them, the next time will be a lot better.”

Not going down without a fight, the Mustangs staged a come-from-behind victory in the third set. Trailing 17-13, Groppe ignited the Mustangs’ best series of plays, blasting six kills down the stretch to highlight an 8-4 sprint and the set decision.

“We need to focus on getting back that feeling and rhythm of how we played in that set and start from there the next game, fired up and ready to play,” Groppe said.

The threat of a fifth set didn’t last long as the Balers controlled the fourth with a business-like approach.

Ryan Asp registered eight kills for the Balers, Steigelman had four and Megan Kelley had five. Groppe ended with 10 kills and Flores put down five for the Mustangs.

“We need to be disciplined,” Corioso said, looking toward league matchups against Alvarez and first-place North Salinas next week. “If we turn half those errors into little rallies, we will win games.”

The Balers head to the Menlo Invitational this weekend before returning to TCAL play at home against Notre Dame on Tuesday.

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