By Jeremy McDonald
SACRAMENTO – It was truly the ‘Battle of the Cats’ at Thursday night’s CIF-Sac Joaquin Section Division-I boys volleyball Section Title game between Whitney and Roseville.
After being in full control of the game entering the third set, the Wildcats were stunned by two set wins by the Tigers that forced the Section Title to come down to a decisive fifth set.
But the experience of the Wildcats proved too much, winning their third section title with a three sets to two victory, 25-18, 25-19, 19-25, 20-25, 17-15 their first title in Division-I.
"It's the greatest feeling I've ever had," said Will Bebinger. "After all the hard work and going through all the obstacles we've had, losing to them twice. They're a great team. It feels really great to win."
"Just desire, from both sides," added Daniel Jones on the game. "I feel like we've came out, really really strong and you saw it in the first two sets. We went on runs and they couldn't do anything to come back.
Whitney found themselves down in a 4-1 hole to the upbeat Roseville squad.
That was until the figurative Goliath woke up.
The Cat’s rallied and had build a 18-13 lead before the Tigers tried to answer.
Behind Trevor Pratt, Roseville managed to cut the Whitney lead to three before Whitney proved too much in the 25-18 first set win.
The 'Cats used their first set momentum to build a 12-5 lead before a Tiger 7-2 advantage brought them to two.
With the help of Daniel Jones, Whitney were within a point of a set two victory before poor outside hitting allowed Roseville to bring it to 24-19 on a 6-0 run.
Cavan Stewart ended the set with a kill, but the Tigers used the set two momentum to take set three 25-19.
“Teams fall down and they comeback up,” said Zach Mancha. "Within those two sets, we got down on ourselves. We weren't playing Roseville Volleyball how it should be.
"We fought back. We've played this team before, we knew we could play them. We just had to put our best first foot forward and just attack it."
Roseville jumped on Whitney once more in the fourth set by building a 19-6 lead.
But Stewart and company rallied on a 8-2 advantage to bring it to a 18-17 deficit.
The Tigers proved too much however as strength in their hits had caught Whitney off guard as Roseville forced a decisive fifth set for the Section title with a 25-20 set win.
Entering the fifth set, it was a pound for-pound slugfest.
One team would go up by two, the other would tie it and they would take a two point lead before the other tied it.
"Then they started to pumping it up and we let up a little bit," said Jones. "That's when they took those two sets from us. After that, it was neck to neck. A couple of balls went our way and a few great effort plays by our backrow players and it put us ahead."
It wasn't until it was tied at 15 with a kill and a block by Matt Honberger and Bebinger that would seal both teams fates.
"I'm just super proud of this team," said Tiger head coach Jason Cole. "They're young and you can see towards the end that they're experience outweighed us.
"We've been here. Pressure wise, but never been here to experience it. This is the first time and I could've asked for anything better., they didn't roll over and give them the game."
Up next, both teams are heading to the NorCal Regional Tournament. It is suspected that Whitney will get a home game following this win, but both team’s will find out Sunday afternoon or evening of where they’ll be Tuesday.
"We've been working hard," said Mancha. "Right now, we have to prove to people that we aren't a team that lose by two and give up, we push forward.
"Regionals we have to push farther. We got to show people that we can play at this level even though our experience is young."
Stay tuned to Placer 65 Sports for updates on where Whitney and Roseville will be Tuesday!
Follow 65 Sports on Twitter on @PC65Sports, like us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com with story ideas!