Boys volleyball: Comeback falls short in Jaguars’ first playoff match

The Kimball High boys volleyball team made a big comeback attempt in the team’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff match on Tuesday.

With the prospect looming of a quick 3-0 defeat to the Merced Bears, the Jaguars found the will to keep battling through the end, but finished with a 3-2 loss, with scores of 25-14, 25-17, 21-25, 18-25, 15-3 in Merced’s favor.

“We just needed to figure out our purpose, of why we even started this team. The first two sets we played as if we forgot how to play,” said coach Junior Saaga-Sausau after the comeback and loss. He said the players needed to think about how far they had come in their first season of volleyball.

“Just trying to get the boys to think about their purpose, why they wanted to be here on this team, why they wanted to be on the court, kind of fueled them up and gave them a reason to play.”

The Jaguars went 13-5, 7-3 in the Valley Oak League, and tied Weston Ranch for second place, behind first-place Manteca, and made playoffs in their first season. Merced (12-8, 7-5 Central California Conference) now advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals against Placer High in Auburn.

Merced pulled ahead early in the first set, with the Bears putting up a solid presence at the net and taking advantage of the gaps in Kimball’s defense. Kimball senior Tyler Doan made some aggressive shots at the net, but the Bears still continued to pull ahead.

The Bears took an early lead again in the second set. Kimball senior Garrett Pun made shots to keep his team competitive until Merced pulled away at the end.

The third set was close from the start. The Jaguars took the lead when senior Noah Pajarillo scored a serving ace. From there the Jaguars extended…

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