Net play powers Immanuel boys past Reedley

Eagles use strong blocking combinations at the net to avenge an earlier league loss to Pirates

Immanuel High defenders Joseph Tum (9) and Micah Horn (13) challenge a shot at the net during the Eagles’ three-set sweep of the Pirates on April 11 at Immanuel South Gym. Horn had a team-high five blocks while Tum added two blocks as Immanuel collected 13 blocks at the net. (Jon Earnest)
Immanuel High defenders Joseph Tum (9) and Micah Horn (13) challenge a shot at the net during the Eagles’ three-set sweep of the Pirates on April 11 at Immanuel South Gym. Horn had a team-high five blocks while Tum added two blocks as Immanuel collected 13 blocks at the net. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published April 12, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – Immanuel High threw a different look at city rival Reedley High to turn the tables in the boys volleyball teams’ second round league matchup Thursday night.

Employing different defensive combinations at the net, the Eagles collected 13 blocks to stymie the Pirates’ hitting attack while posting a 25-23, 25-19, 25-20 sweep at Immanuel South Gym. Immanuel (11-24 overall) improved to 2-3 in league while avenging a four-set defeat at Reedley High on March 14.

Pirates coach Emilio Botello credited his counterpart, Edgar Baltazar, with prepping a new look defensive strategy that kept the visitors’ attack off balance..

“Coach worked with them, and they’re covering differently with their defense,” he said. “They were picking up all the balls moving, so we couldn’t get the ball down [for kills].”

Baltazar said he moved his previous middle hitter to the right side, and the switch paid off. “It was a matter of strategic changes, and it worked out well for us.”

Eagles junior Micah Horn was the principal obstacle at the net for the Reedley offense, collecting a team-high five blocks. Junior Rimia “Nems”  Numia had three blocks while senior opposite hitter Joseph Tum and sophomore Colson Chernekoff each added a pair of kills. Tum made a big block at the net to close out the second set win.

Meanwhile, sophomore Bennett Cords powered the hitting attack with 12 kills and just one hitting error in 14 hit attempts. Chernekoff and Horn collected six kills each while Numia added five. Setter John Viscarra delivered 15 assists while committing just one error.

Reedley’s main offensive threats at the net were sophomores Jared Bonds and Gabriel Del Bosque in the middle. But the Pirates (5-18, 3-3) were unable to complete hits from the wing with much success, and the Eagles executed on key points in each of the first and third sets.

Both Immanuel and Reedley have had their overall records dinged by rugged pre-league tournament action against Division I and fellow Division II schools.

“We’re just continuing to grow,” we’re a young team, we only have two seniors this year,” Baltazar said. “I think every single time they [come] into practice, they have a goal. Right now their goal is to continue to build this program for the next generation.”

Botello said his squad also is working to gain experience.

“We have two freshman and two sophomores on the varsity team, so we just need to get the players to match the level of play they face,” he said. “These guys are young, but they’ve got a lot of fire.”

This weekend, both the Eagles and Pirates will compete at the Eagle Freedom Classic in Madera on Saturday, April 13. Immanuel will play Torres High of Madera in an 8 a.m. start while Reedley plays Madera High that same time.

League play will continue through April 25, and then both teams will learn their seedings for Central Section playoff action that starts the final week of April.

Jon Earnest
Reporter