It was an ordinary hitting error; one every hitter will commit in their time playing volleyball. But something about the circumstances led the opposing student section to chant out something very particular:
“Back to Tik-tok!” the Thunderbird High students yelled and repeated, referring to the social media platform.
Mesquite’s players seemed a bit flustered, some even cracked a smile. All the while the next serve came back to their side, and they were unprepared, leading them to lose a point.
Mesquite head coach Carlos Flys, disturbed by his team’s lack of concentration, yelled out to his group to pull back together. The Wildcats held a potential match-ending lead in the fourth set, and the last thing he wanted was for the crowd to affect his players in the moment.
The students helped all they could, but they weren’t enough.
The Mesquite High Wildcats defeated the Thunderbird High Chiefs in four sets (15-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-19) on Wednesday night.
The win improves the Cougars to a 10-4 record overall and 4-2 in conference play.
Senior outside hitter Brooklyn Holland led the way for Mesquite, scoring 13 points for the Wildcats
Junior outside hitter Myka Salian led the scoring for the Chiefs, tallying ten points for the team.
The Wildcats got off to a slow start, scoring just 15 points in their only lost set. Flys admitted it was a problem going into the match, and something the team must work on.
"We have this bad habit of starting out slow, and it showed," Flys said.
Players echoed the same points and made it one of the bigger takeaways from the match.
“We need to execute our game better. We need to start out stronger and keep pushing throughout the whole match,” junior middle blocker Elli Cano said.
The Wildcats regrouped after the first set and swept the next three. This included a sizeable comeback in the third set. Mesquite fell back early in the third set and played catchup all the way to take a 23-22 lead. They carried the momentum to win the set 26-24.
Cano said the team reminded themselves to, “stay calm and make your passes. Play like we know how to play,” while staring down their third set deficit.
Coach Flys aimed for a different approach. Instead of calming the team, he wanted to give the team energy to spark a comeback.
“I don't know if want to calm them. I want to put a fire under them,” Flys said. "This team was a lot tougher than I thought. They're a good team, a really strong team."
In reference to the chants in the fourth set, senior setter Annika Wallace said she needed to regroup the team’s focus to get them back on track to close the match.
“I think it’s when I yelled at everyone to not talk back to the crowd,” Wallace said when asked what got the team refocused.
Flys loved the atmosphere, saying, “I love big student sections and big crowds. That right there, if they are cheering for you or against you, it’s just great."
Players seemed to point at different aspects of the team’s performance to work on, from the aforementioned slow starts, to gaining more trust across the team.
"I think we need to believe in each other more," Wallace said.
Coach Flys seemed to not know what to take away from the match, saying he needed to talk to the team over what to improve.
“Our hitters were able to figure stuff out, which is good,” Flys said. “We are a team that doesn't yet have an identity. We have a tournament this weekend, so we’ll have a lot of matches to find our identity before we start with our regional matches.”
Mesquite will play in the Snowflake Volleyball Invitational on Sep. 20 starting at 10:30 AM MST.
Jeffrey Horst is a sports journalism student at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Mesquite High School athletics.