LONGMONT — Having seen four of their area volleyball counterparts qualify for the Class 4A state tournament on Friday, the Mead Mavericks and head coach Juliane Mosebar were eager to join the party on Saturday.
But hosting the Region 5 tournament against Colorado Springs-based Air Academy and Coronado — and with the chance to make state for the first time in four seasons — the presented the Mavericks with their greatest challenges so far this season.
Being youthful, however, was no detraction. Neither was a rough start against Coronado, because after falling in the first two sets against the Cougars the Mavericks turned it up for six straight game wins, earning a regional title and punching their ticket to the Denver Coliseum next weekend.
Mead swept Air Academy 3-0 in what amounted to the regional championship game (25-12, 25-20, 25-20) and MHS is back at state for the first time since 2015.
"We knew that this could have been it, and that we had to put it all out there," said sophomore setter Hailee Martinez, who secured nearly 100 assists in eight games between two matches. "It was the end if we didn't."
The Mavericks have two standout seniors in Hope Borger and Abbey Glynn, but the entirety of the program is about to be a wrecking ball. Several sophomores start and there are two freshmen, Quincey Coyle and Morgan Munro, who log extensive court time.
Coyle's big blasts were troublesome all day for the opposition. Arguably one of the Tri-Valley League's top players, Coyle had 13 kills and hit at a .321 clip against the Kadets, each attack seemingly more important to the Mavericks' chances of winning.
The senior Glynn also had 10 kills against Air Academy, and the confidence as the No. 5 seed seemed to really be on display the closer they were to victory.
"We were a little nervous at the beginning, but we've been practicing a lot on some different things that get us motivated through a game and so I think we just came through with all of that," Coyle said. "We worked hard, elevated each other."
"We really thought after that first game, we really just need to calm down, this is our home gym and we're at an advantage there," Martinez added. "We played how we knew we could play."
Coronado came to play as the No. 32 seed. The Mavericks were backed up against a wall right away as the Cougars took a 2-0 lead on the hosts. However, in the three extremely tense and fascinating games that followed, MHS buckled down and brought home the five-set win with games scores of 25-23, 28-26 and 17-15.
Coyle had 29 kills and Wilke had 13 kills and four blocks, while Martinez was good for 67 set assists.
The Cougars perhaps also wore out Air Academy a bit as that match also went to five sets, but the thrill and the wake-up call the MHS received to open play in the morning worked in their favor in the afternoon.
For the first time since Glynn was a freshman in 2015, Mead will be looking to conquer 11 other teams starting Thursday.
"It was a mixture of both," Coyle said. "We all brought each other up in that third game (against Coronado) and then we carried it on through the last two sets."
Class 4A, Region 5 tournament
Mead 3, Coronado 2
At Mead HSCoronado (10-14) 25 25 23 26 15
Mead (20-4) 21 17 25 28 17
Kills — Mead: Quincey Coyle 29, Abbey Glynn 17, Phoenix Wilke 13, Kenzi Morton 8.
Blocks — Mead: Wilke 4, Coyle 2, Glynn 2.
Assists — Mead: Hailee Martinez 67.
Aces — Mead: Several with one apiece.
Digs — Mead: Hope Borger 36, Coyle 19, Morton 16, Martinez 11, Abby Sprague 10.
Mead 3, Air Academy 0
At Mead HSAir Academy (13-12) 12 20 20
Mead (21-4) 25 25 25
Kills — Mead: Coyle 13, Glynn 10, Morton 5.
Blocks — Mead: Wilke 3.
Assists — Mead: Martinez 29.
Aces — Mead: Martinez 3, Morton two.
Digs — Mead: Borger 17, Martinez 10, Sprague 9, Coyle 8, Morton 8.