Deer Valley girls volleyball coach Jackie Wallace couldn’t talk Thursday night.
Not after watching her club claw back from a 14-11 deficit in Game 5 against rival Mountain Ridge. And not after giving up a 4-point lead midway through Game 4 then coming back down 19-16 to force the deciding set.
“This team showed its mental toughness tonight,” Wallace said. “They give each other so much support and they are starting to peak at the right time. This team has a never-say-die attitude, as you can see from tonight’s comeback. That was amazing.”
The Skyhawks won 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-23, 16-14) against 5A-I/II Northwest Region rival Mountain Ridge (12-11, 10-2) in a match that looked and felt like a state tournament game.
“It totally had a feel of a state tournament,” Wallace said. “And (the night) started that way, even during the freshman game. It was really loud but you have to like that kind of atmosphere and it really brings excitement to the sport.”
The Ridge Army, a group of students who attend most school sporting events to support their teams, filled one section of the Mountain Ridge gym and were heard from start to finish through all three matches Thursday – freshman, junior varsity and varsity. Coupled with the many Deer Valley fans, the gym was filled an energy rarely seen for a regular season girls volleyball game.
Up 2-1 in games, the Mountain Lions appeared to swing the momentum in Game 4 when Blake Beecroft killed an Ashley Klavitter set to tie things up at 16. Megan Ryan followed with another kill from Klavitter for Mountain Ridge’s first lead of the set. Those two kills were part of a 7-0 run.
But the Skyhawks fought back, capitalizing on a pair of unforced errors to get within one at 19-18. The Mountain Lions swatted right back with a 3-0 run before Deer Valley tied the game at 21 on Beecroft’s long return. The two sides traded sideouts to 23 until the Skyhawks’ Victoria Ledesma found open court for her return and the Mountain Lions followed with a dig into the net to cinch Game 4.
The momentum continued for Deer Valley in Game 5 as it jumped to a quick 4-1 lead before Mountain Ridge answered with it’s own run, tying up the game at 8 on a Sarah Parsons tip. The Skyhawks Lauren Haeger followed with a kill attempt into the net, giving the Mountain Lions a 9-8 lead and forcing Wallace to call a timeout. Mountain Ridge continued its 6-0 run on another Parsons tip. The Skyhawks fought back and tied the game up at 10 on a kill from sophomore Amanda Conlin before a Michelle Peterson kill gave the Mountain Lions a sideout and started a 4-1 run, putting them on the verge of upsetting the region leader.
Down 12-10 after a Parsons block fell for a point, Wallace used her last timeout to refocus her troops.
“Coach told us to give it all you got and play hard,” said senior Taylor Funkhouser.
“I just reminded them to breathe and play Deer Valley volleyball,” Wallace said. “If we do that everything will be OK.”
The timeout seemed to do little to slow Mountain Ridge’s momentum until Lesdema fired a kill through center court for a Skyhawk sideout. A Mountain Lion hitting error and a four-hit violation got Deer Valley even, and that’s when Funkhouser took control on serve.
“I was just serving it to where coach told us,” Funkhouser said. “She had us mostly going center court.”
Funkhouser tied the match at 14 with an ace through the middle and followed with a serve down the left sideline. Klavitter made a play on it, but the ball glanced off her fist to give the Skyhawks the win and at least a share of 5A-I/II Northwest Region title.
Mountain Ridge coach Keith Perrin said the block on both sides was the key, which was especially true for his squad as the Skyhawks struggled through most of Game 1 finding a hole to work through.
“Early on the blocking was strong both ways,” Perrin said. “As the game went on both teams were able to put together some runs and that was key.”
For both squads to be in position for a region title after down years last season is no small feat. The Mountain Lions had two different coaches and finished with a first round loss to Salpointe Catholic while the Skyhawks battled injuries and also dropped a first round match to Desert Mountain.
“We had people hurt last season and they felt they missed on something, so this year the team is together, the chemistry is great and they all wanted this game and the region,” Wallace said.
For Mountain Ridge, this season has been more about growth as a team than anything else, Perrin said.
“The program is doing really well and the girls feel they can beat any team in front of them,” said the first-year Mountain Ridge coach. “We have four great seniors who support the other girls and they all pull together with no complaints.
“Along with this group of girls I’m also grateful for my coaching staff,” Perrin said. “Jen and Katie McGauley have been incredible all season.”