The nationally No. 2-ranked Buchanan High boys volleyball team continued its destruction of Central Section opposition Thursday night.
Behind 13 kills and four aces from Donovan Mitchell, the top-seeded Bears rolled to a 25-13, 25-18, 25-17 victory over No. 8 Bullard in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs.
But Buchanan – which hasn’t lost to an opponent from the Valley in nearly three years – has its sights set on even grander goals than a third consecutive (and ninth overall) section title.
“Our mindset is just keep on winning right now and get to Valley and win Valley,” Mitchell said. “But our biggest goal is state. That’s what we’re more focused on.”
Our mindset is just keep on winning right now and get to Valley and win Valley. But our biggest goal is state. That’s what we’re more focused on.
Buchanan High boys volleyball standout Donovan Mitchell
The Bears (31-3) have gained confidence during a season that’s seen them win the Las Vegas Easter Invitational, place third at the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions in Santa Barbara and finish ninth at the Best of the West in Poway, all tournaments that drew national-class fields.
Buchanan’s three losses have come to national No. 1 Huntington Beach (25-20, 21-25, 15-12), No. 4 Loyola-Los Angeles (25-21, 25-16, 25-16) and No. 9 Newport Harbor-Newport Beach (25-22, 25-23).
“Our goals were to win (the Tri-River Athletic Conference), which we accomplished, then win section,” Bears coach John Jay said. “And if we can do that, we’d like to go on and win state. We’ve played the top teams, and we were right there with those teams. We definitely have a shot.”
Buchanan has reached the semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regionals each of the past two seasons, losing 25-20, 25-15, 25-22 to eventual champion Huntington Beach last season and 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 18-25, 15-10 to runner-up Loyola in 2014.
“Bottom line, we’re not here to mess around. We’re here to win,” said Nikolas Gettman, who had eight kills and six blocks against Bullard. “We’re just going to keep trying to advance and advance, and get better every day.”
Up next for Buchanan is fourth-seeded Clovis – one of three teams ranked among the nation’s top 76 that the Bears beat twice while going 10-0 in the TRAC – on May 17 in the section semifinals. The Cougars were the last team from the section to beat Buchanan on May 17, 2013, in a five-set thriller for the Division I title.
The section final is set for May 20 and the CIF Southern California Regionals begin May 24.
“Our team is playing really well right now,” said the 6-foot-10 Mitchell, who is headed to Wake Forest on a basketball scholarship. “I feel like we’ll go pretty far in state.”
Mountain biking – The Fresno Composite High School Mountain Bike Team will send five riders to the California championships next weekend in Los Olivos.
Jonathan Gonzalez, a senior at Central High, is the only rider in the varsity division; Michael Hoover, a sophomore at Central, will race in the sophomore division. Memorial’s Grant Huering, El Diamante’s Andrew Chapman and Central’s Brian Reynosoare in the freshman division.
It’s the largest group of riders to qualify for the state finals for the Fresno composite team, which sent three riders in 2015 and two in 2014.
The team competes in the highly competitive NorCal High School Mountain Bike League during the regular season.