It was loud, rowdy, close and had all the qualities that Desert Vista could hope for in a state 5A-I boys volleyball semifinal game.
Except the ending.
“That was the most exciting three-game matches I’ve ever seen,” Desert Vista coach Ryan Tolman said after the Thunder battled to the final point in a 3-2 loss to Gilbert Highland on Friday at Mesquite High School.
Highland won the final five points of the first game and the last four of the second game, but the lead changed four times in the third game before the Hawks came out of the marathon with a 30-28 victory.
Desert Vista fell behind, 21-17, but came back and was playing for the set point four times in the final game.
The Hawks had three opportunities to put it away before Robert Esser nailed the game-winner.
Highland won the opening sets 25-22 and 25-21.
“If you have to go out that’s how you like to go out,” junior Andy Gott said. “It was an unbelievable match. We’ve come back from losses before and knew we could do it again, but in the end they just out-played us by a point.”
Gott had 13 kills in the match, but the Thunder were hoping that senior Michael Tilleman could cast his magic spell over the game.
Despite being tripled-teamed at the net, Tilleman had 14 kills, including the final six of the Thunder’s eight. He tried to keep the third game alive and get Desert Vista into a fourth game of the best-of-five match.
“I wish that last game was the first,” Tilleman said. “But that showed the heart of this team, and I think they’ll be strong next year, too.”
Desert Vista had come back with a fifth game victory over Mesquite in the second round, but Tolman said the Hawks wouldn’t bend.
“They were relentless,” Tolman said. “We were so close in the first two games, and we were disappointed we couldn’t win those. But I was proud how we fought down to the end. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the ball bouncing our way.”
Desert Vista libero Michael Cowley had 12 digs and Gavin Scott finished with four blocks.
Even with Tilleman launching missiles at the Hawks, Highland pretty much owned the game at the net.
“Maybe if the balls bounce off our hands in another direction, Tolman said, “it’s a different story, but we can’t out-guess ourselves. It was great to come back and make it that close.”