Win sets up rematch with an old friendBy: Jeff Nicholson, Sports Editor
Well, well, well. Fancy meeting you here.
On Tuesday, old friends – and one-time intensely fierce rivals – will renew acquaintances when Placer, the No. 3 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II playoffs, play host to No. 7 seed Del Oro.
“When I was in high school, this rivalry was big,” Placer coach Andrew Klem said. “Going back before 2005, Placer-Del Oro was THE rivalry.”
Klem should know. He was a part of it – as a student at Del Oro.
Funny how things go.
This will be the teams’ first playoff meeting, largely because Del Oro usually plays in Div. I.
And don’t let the seeding be deceiving – the Golden Eagles went to No. 2-seed Rio Americano and emerged with a 3-1 victory on Thursday, avenging a 2-1 loss earlier in the season.
Watch out in particular for Long Beach State-bound senior Dawson Fugate. Don’t worry, you won’t miss him. He’s the 6-foot-5 guy hammering bombs all over the court.
“He’s the hardest swinger in this region right now,” Klem said. “He’s a big dude and gets up. Don’t discount them just because they’re a seven-seed. They’re a really good team with talent.”
So are the Hillmen.
Placer took care of six-seed Manteca in four sets on Thursday – one more than Klem would have liked.
With Jared Robles moving all over the court and Shaun Young doing his own impersonation of Fugate at the net, the Hillmen cruised in the opening game, but Klem, wanting to get as many players in as he could, made a few adjustments, and the Hillmen hit a lull in which they committed six errors in a row, essentially handing the second set to the visiting Buffaloes.
“There was a little frustration,” Klem said. “It happens. The ball is just out, or we just mishit it. Normally, when we’re not giving up points, we win.”
Indeed, the Hillmen restored order in the third set, then closed it out even as matters became heated between the teams.
“There was some jawing back and forth,” Klem said. “It happens at this level. They’re passionate about their play.”
If Manteca provided some passion, the Del Oro match on Tuesday could ignite a wildfire.
The two teams met April 30 to close out the regular season; Placer won a five-set thriller, but Klem doesn’t think one should read too much into that result.
“Neither team was playing it’s best, honestly,” he said.
Klem said he was pleased to see a larger crowd at the match, and he hopes more people will show up Tuesday.
“It’ll be fun, especially for people who graduated in the early 2000s,” he said. “The first two matches (in the 2018 playoffs) were okay. But this team loves competition,a nd they’re really looking forward to this one.”