Mountain Pointe opened the third game on a 6-2 run, forcing Centennial Coach Carly Bourland to call an early time out.
She wanted to get across that her squad didn't look ready for the Pride, that they were playing to lose.
"So we made some adjustments, fixed some errors in our serve-receiving, and got our offense going," Bourland said.
Four points after the time out, the Coyotes found their opportunity to bite back. Junior Brooke Pottle tipped a return, and the Pride answered setting the ball for their high-flying, sledgehammer-hitting senior Ashley Kastl. But her kill attempt was saved by senior libero Devon Maloney and senior MacKenzie Willneff took a set for her own kill attempt.
The Pride recovered and got the ball back to Kastl whose second kill attempt in the volley was dug out by Willneff who more protecting herself than setting up the offense. The ball worked its way to Emylee Schlink who directed a shot to the back corner, which was dug out by freshman Brenna Wagner, but the Pride couldn't control the ball and ended the volley with four hits on their side.
The Coyotes (7-1, 2-0) used the momentum from that rally to go on a 23-13 run in the third game, en route to a 3-1 home win (37-35, 19-25, 25-23, 26-24) Monday against Mountain Pointe (8-1, 0-0). It was the Pride's first loss of the season.
Besides effecting the 5A-I and 5A-II standings, there was a shift in the power rankings as well. Heading into tonight's game, Mountain Pointe was No. 2 behind Corona del Sol, and Centennial vaulted from No. 10, leap frogging Willow Canyon into the No. 1 slot.
"This was a huge win for our power points," Bourland said. "I gave up my Kingman points for this game. I'm a little bit of a gambler, so I was willing to risk those points at chance for a bigger score with (Mountain Pointe). And it was sweet to hand them that first loss in non-tournament play."
Schlink's game-three kill sparked an 8-1 Coyote run, cutting the 10-2 Pride lead to 11-10.
Willneff led the comeback by converting a pair of blocks off Kastl kill attempts, and after the run ended, took a set from junior Maggie Matheson for a kill.
The Pride would hold off the Coyote charge, pulling away late on a Kastl tip. With Centennial crashing the net to block Mountain Pointe's big hitter, the Pride senior tipped the ball over the front line to push their lead to 21-17.
As it was most of the night, it was Willneff who halted the run, netting another kill of a Mountain Pointe touch. Willneff pulled the Coyotes closer with another kill off a set by senior Megan Rhoades, cutting the Mountain Pointe lead to 22-20.
Two plays later, a Centennial hit sailed over the Pride defense into the back corner to tie the game at 22. Mountain Pointe junior Kristin Stephan's tip gave her squad a one-point lead, but with Willneff on serve the Coyotes converted on a ball handling violation against the Pride and a Pottle block that fell just over the net sealed the comeback.
"(Willneff) and (Pottle) both came up big on offense," Bourland said. "We faced two tough outside hitters and we came up with some big digs and key blocks."
Pottle would finish the game with 22 kills, while Willneff notched 25 kills and 28 digs, most of those coming off Kastl's big arm. The Pride hitter had 30 kills.
"I love the thrill of getting the dig," said Willneff, who was busy hanging with Kastl's kills. "It's so exhilarating, and then to come off that and receive a great set for the kill, it just gets everyone going on offense."
The momentum carried into game four, jumping out to a quick 5-1 lead. However, unable to consistently stop Kastl, and a spurt of poor passing, Centennial gave back the lead.
The teams would stay within two until the Coyotes put together a 6-1 run, using a pair of Pottle kills and a Schlink block. But Centennial couldn't hold the lead, and the Pride answered with it's own 5-0 run with four points coming off Kastl kills. Schlink would end the run with a hit to a vacant back corner, to make it 21-20.
Mountain Pointe would tie the game at 22 on a Kastl kill, switching to the right side to keep the Centennial defense off the block. And after a Willneff kill, the Pride would tie it again on an Erika Papadeas kill.
That prompted Bourland to call a time out. However, a tip by the Pride's Brenna Wagner gave the Phoenix school a short-lived lead. The Coyotes would return to the hot hand - Willneff - who came up with a kill of a set by sophomore Dana Gundrum. She took the serve and the Coyotes converted on a Pottle kill and senior Jessica Youngberg's tip that the Mountain Pointe coaches disputed, questioning whether the tip was legal or if Youngberg hit the net.
"These types of games are why we play volleyball," Willneff said.
The opening game clued the packed stands what to expect from two of this year's best programs. After the Coyotes jumped out to a 4-0 lead, both schools battled for points not allowing the other to get ahead by more than four. There were 20 lead changes and 19 ties in the game. It was settled when Mountain Pointe was called for a ball handling violation while Willneff had the serve.