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Legionnaires one match away from boys volleyball league championship

Last year Bonsall High School’s boys volleyball team had a 3-18 record including two forfeit wins, and the Legionnaires were 3-7 in Pioneer League play. This year the team had a regular-season record of 17-14 including an 11-3 mark in Pioneer League competition which was one match short of sharing the league championship.

“I was pretty happy,” said Bonsall coach Jesse Stock.

Bonsall High School added boys volleyball in 2023 after enough boys expressed interest for a team. Most of the 13 boys on last year’s team were freshmen or sophomores, and only a couple had any previous organized volleyball experience. Not including a forfeit win, the Legionnaires lost their first 17 matches before obtaining an on-court victory.

Stock felt that he could utilize the additional experience for this season, but three of last year’s starters transferred to other schools. “That was unexpected,” he said.

“We still had the skills,” Stock said. “The students invested more time during the summer.”

Many of the players also trained during the fall and winter seasons although some of them played other sports for the Legionnaires during that time.

The CIF San Diego Section created Division V-AA for the 2023-24 seasons. For each sport, Division V is split in half based on the total number of Division V schools that year. Schools whose enrollment is in the top half are in Division V-A and schools in the bottom half are in Division V‑AA. Bonsall, whose enrollment at the beginning of the school year was 318 students, was one of the Division V-AA teams.

“We got placed in a lower division,” Stock said. “That was good.”

Excluding league and tournament matches, Bonsall’s regular season consisted of two matches against Division IV teams, two matches with Division V-A opponents, and two matches facing a Division V-AA squad. “I had more control over who we played,” Stock said. “I wanted to have a competitive balance.”

The Legionnaires split those six matches but defeated both Division V-AA opponents.

“All those things really helped,” Stock said.

“The season actually started off pretty well,” Stock said. “We had very high expectations.”

The Legionnaires’ roster consisted of 12 players at the beginning of the season with Nate Winebrenner being the only senior. The Legionnaires lost two starters; one quit the team and junior outside hitter Bryce Crosswaite was lost to a season-ending injury.

“It was an up and down season,” Stock said.

After a 2-3 start against five of the non-league and non-tournament opponents, the Legionnaires had a March 5 league match at King-Chavez Community and won that in three games. Bonsall then participated in the March 8-9 Falcon Varsity Tourney hosted by O’Farrell Charter School.

The Legionnaires had a March 12 league match at Gompers Prep Academy and a March 14 home league match against Horizon Prep. Bonsall then played in the March 15-16 Del Lago Firebird Invitational tournament.

“We overbooked,” Stock said.

The tournaments on consecutive weekends gave Bonsall 12 matches, not including a forfeit win, in a nine-day period. “Everyone was kind of exhausted,” Stock said.

The benefits of tournaments include providing playing experience to substitutes, which was more suitable for the 12-player roster to begin the season rather than for the 10 players willing and able to play in this year’s tournaments. “A good amount of my starters weren’t available,” Stock said.

Playing multiple matches in one day also has the benefit of conditioning players. “I learned from last year I had to get them conditioned,” Stock said.

Bonsall had a 2-4 record in the Falcon Varsity Tourney including the forfeit win. All four losses were to Division III schools.

Gompers and School for Entrepreneurship and Technology both had 12-2 league records to share the Pioneer League championship. Horizon Prep was 9-5 for fourth place. Between the two tournaments, Bonsall lost to Gompers in four games and to Horizon Prep in three games.

Stock believes that the match against Gompers could have ended as a Bonsall victory. “That was all mental. We blew them out the first set,” he said. “They got overconfident.”

The Legionnaires were 1-4 in the Del Lago Firebird Invitational. The losses included a 25-16, 18-25, 15-9 match against Victory Christian, which was in Division V-AA. The other three schools which defeated Bonsall in that tournament were in Division II, Division IV, and Division V-A.

“They were competitive,” Stock said. “Just playing those harder teams helped.”

Bonsall followed the Del Lago Firebird Invitational with 10 consecutive victories, including nine in league play. In an April 20 match at School for Entrepreneurship and Technology which had championship implications, the Lions were on the preferred end of the 25-8, 20-25, 25-11, 25-19 final score. Regular-season play for Bonsall concluded April 26 at home with a three-game win over Health Sciences.

“We’ve been doing really well,” Stock said.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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