Team takes in Division I college match in Santa Barbara, later go on to beat league rival Atascadero in five sets 

PASO ROBLES — This March, the Paso Robles High Bearcats boys volleyball team was given an opportunity to watch an NCAA Division I game in Santa Barbara. Prior to their own match against Laguna Blanca and St. Bonaventure on Saturday, March 4, the team was invited to watch the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Gauchos men’s volleyball team play the UC San Diego (UCSD) Tritons.

Coach Scott Gardner hoped the collegiate matchup would inspire his players as they headed into the heart of the season. The game was the first live D-1 men’s volleyball game any of the players had attended.

“It was an amazing experience for the Bearcats,” said Gardner of the experience at UCSB.

The next morning, the Bearcats faced two private schools from the CIF Southern Section.

Gardner reported the Bearcats played competitively against both Laguna Blanca and St. Bonaventure, but just did not have enough to pull out a victory against either of their opponents.

With Omar Acevedo and Miguel Muniz as the senior captains, Gardner had high expectations for those two and their team in their final season as Bearcats. 

In PRHS’s pre-league matches, it was an unsettling 1-4 start.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, the Bearcats hosted the Salinas High Cowboys. The Cowboys took the match with a score of 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 21-25, 25-21). Then on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Bearcats traveled to Pioneer Valley, where the Panthers took the match, also by a 3-1 score (25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22).

“The Bearcats played both teams and all sets were really close,” said Gardner in reference to the first two pre-league games. “Unfortunately, the Bearcats had a few too many errors at critical times of the matches. There was a sense that the Bearcats were on the verge of taking those close losses into hard-fought victories.” 

Luck changed on Thursday, March 2, when the host Bearcats defeated the Immanuel Eagles (18-25, 25-18, 25-21, 26-24). 

Gardner describes the game, “The Bearcats were led by Captains Omar Acevedo (Sr) and Miguel Muniz (Sr), with great contributions from Bennett Reed (Jr) and Ezra Smeltzer (So). Additional contributions from Maxwell Berry (Jr) and his assists, and some great situational serving by Colin Daugherty (Fr).”

On Wednesday, March 7, the Bearcats went on to the Ocean League, first facing Atascadero. The team started the league season on a good foot, winning the first three games against Atascadero Greyhounds (3-2 after taking the last set 19-17), Orcutt Academy Spartans (3-0) and the Santa Maria Saints (3-0).

When referring to the Bearcat vs. Greyhound game at the start of March, Gardner made it known both teams are looking for a league championship this year. The rivals battled against each other that first game, where Gardner notes both teams were “competitive and up for the challenge in the first set, with the Hounds edging the Bearcats 25-20. The Bearcats were determined to make a few more passes and clutch plays in set two, winning 25-16.”

Continuting to describe the game, Gardner said, “The Bearcats let the set-two victory loosen their focus and gave set three to the Hounds 25-12. This put the Bearcats in a must-win frame of mind, they put together another set where they were in control of the entire set, 25-19 for the Bearcats. This pushed the match to a fifth and deciding set. Paso won the coin toss, then fell behind, but kept battling back to tie the match. The Hounds had three different match points for the victory to be theirs, but the Bearcats kept calm and kept playing great volleyball.”

In the end, the Bearcats rose up with a comeback that won the final set at 19-17.

While the first three league games were a success, the Bearcat’s next four games ended in 3-0 losses, to Central, Madera, Bullard, and Templeton. On Thursday, March 23, the Bearcats broke their losing streak with a 3-1 win against Cabrillo (23-25, 25-18, 25-16, 25-17). And in their latest game on Tuesday, March 28, the team won 3-1 against Righetti who came into the game with a season record of 2-6. 

The Bearcats will return to face Atascadero on Thursday, March 30, and Templeton on Thursday, April 6. As of Tuesday, the Greyhounds hold a 7-6 record against the Bearcats, who are 5-8 for the whole season.

The Bearcats’ final league game is scheduled against Righetti on Thursday, April 27. The Warriors currently hold a 2-6 record. With nine games left in the season, the Bearcats are ranked 31st in the Central Section and 2nd in the Ocean League. We wish the Bearcats good luck on the rest of their season.