The Mesa Thunderbirds volleyball team topped the once #12 nationally ranked South Mountain Cougars on Wednesday, September 14 after going four sets, 25-12, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21. A real statement game proving they are true contenders with a win over their second ranked team after beating Yavapai on opening night also at Theo Heap gym. Mesa is now 2-0 against ranked opponents. A big difference after winning only four games in all of last year’s play that we can thank Coach Megan Taylor for. Saying “At first look people didn’t think much of what this program was” and “the big thing is dropping the reputation of what we’ve been and this is who we are now, this is the new culture.” That new culture of winning has allowed the Lady T-bird volleyball team to grow in confidence leading to a so far lucrative and successful season to be proud of. Mesa got off to a fast start early only allowing 12 points from the Cougars.
Middle Hitter #15 Raquel Villierre showed up early getting the team off quickly and was consistent throughout the match with 15 kills along with Outside Hitter #11 Breanna Scott combining for just 12 errors between the two. The first set put a clear tone on the game that this was Mesa’s game to loose due to what seemed to be utter dominance putting up seven straight at one point not letting South Mountain to get any momentum forcing nine errors, ending the set 25-12. In the second set clear adjustments were made on the part of South Mountain as their offense became more efficient only giving up five errors to Mesa along with taking better more calculated shots. The Cougars extended plays when necessary while at the same time being discipline. Forcing Mesa to commit 10 errors in that set.
It became clear that South Mountain had caught on to a rhythm in achieving a five point lead at 7-2 and never letting it go. “Playing out of system” is Mesa’s strength according to coach Taylor. The Thunderbirds put that on display in the third putting their own twist on expanding plays. one play Setter #3 Camy Cohn was caught out of position a little close to the net by a long shot by the Cougars and responded brilliantly with a courageous dig to keep the ball in play that eventually led to a kill. Mesa needed these type of ugly plays and a timeout by coach Taylor to occur after trailing most of the set because of great .321 shooting percentage from South Mountain and a period full of bad serves from Mesa whenever they did get them it was these types of plays that gave Mesa the close edge and momentum leading to a 25-23 win in the third set. As for the fourth set it felt less like a Volleyball match and more like a game of chess.
Both teams were dueling points going 5-5 and neck to neck for the most part. Mesa turned up offensively during this stretch shooting 50 attempts in the fourth. By far the most either team had shot all game. They only shot a .140 percentage but do not let the stat sheet fool you, they were great looks. Credit goes to South Mountain properly defending but they could not get off their heels to produce much offense until late with only 18 Total attempts. By that time Mesa had already had a 10-6 lead that felt much bigger. From then out Mesa controlled the game that ended with a win. It seems to be Mesa can handle discipline teams such as South Mountain, but in order to consistently dominate games Mesa must be able to eliminate sloppy play while playing “ugly” as Coach Taylor calls it and not come out of a play looking ugly. As #3 Camy Cohn said the team needs to “work on staying discipline and low throughout an entire rally.”
When the game mattered, however, mesa showed up committing only four errors in the fourth. “We are all passionate and on the same page of wanting to be known as the year that flipped the program around” is what Cohn said speaking on their recent success. It looks to be that they have achieved this because as of September 20 the Mesa volleyball team is ranked #17 in the NJCAA DII volleyball rankings with an 8-3 record.
Check out www.mesatbirdsports.com to find out all venues for games and times