LONGMONT — It had been a while since the Mead Mavericks faced any sort of adversity on the volleyball court.
And after reeling off nine wins in their first ten matches, everything seemed to be clicking on all cylinders.
The on Tuesday night the Mavericks traveled to Johnstown and got beat 3-1 by Roosevelt. OK, so one match doesn’t define a season, it’s just a blip on the radar.
Well, eyebrows started to raise a little bit on Thursday night when a 4-8 Skyline squad took the first two sets off of Mead and seemingly had the Mavericks right where they wanted them.
“The Roosevelt match was still in our heads and we had practiced a whole new lineup for the past two weeks,” Mead coach Nicole Tycksen said. “Coming off of all of that, it was a mental game and we played ourselves.”
The light finally came on for the CHSAANow.com‘s No. 6-ranked team in Class 4A in the third set, and that was the momentum the Mavericks needed to pull out a 3-2 victory over the upstart Falcons, winning 23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-15, 15-7.
“It was nerve-wracking at first, but once we started playing as a team, we were OK,” said Mead junior Makayla Morton, who filled up the stat sheet with 11 kills and three aces.
Early on it was all about Skyline. The Falcons, who were basically playing without their best hitter Naomi Barron (she dislocated her shoulder in Tuesday’s sweep of Frederick, but was determined to play against the Mavericks), got creative and found ways to win points.
Olivia Torres and Marie Montante were the go-to offensive weapons for the Falcons, who can sometimes be hard to keep track of with three sets of sisters on the team.
“We had to adjust to what we had and the first two sets, we played pretty good volleyball,” Skyline coach Will Rozum said. “We knew they were going to respond, they are a good team. We got a little bit loose and they picked up their game, they made the adjustments and we just weren’t able to execute ours back.”
Mead (10-2, 7-1 in the Tri-Valley League) pulled away from the Falcons late in the third set. Up 19-18, the Mavericks won six of the final eight points and rode the hot offensive hands of Morton and 6-foot-1 senior Maddie Uilk, who finished with a team-high 14 kills.
That tiny bit of momentum was enough to carry Mead the rest of the way. Up 9-6 in the fourth, the Mavericks went on a 10-2 run with quality defense and timely hitting that defined the final 30 minutes of the match.
“Our defense started to move their feet and pick up balls and play,” Tycksen said. “The biggest difference is that they wanted it and they realized what was on the line, so they started playing.”
With the end of the regular season in sight, Tycksen knows she can’t just roll the ball out there and expect her ultra-talented squad to just put it all together and cruise.
“I’ve got to keep them motivated or else they will relax too much,” she said. “I’ve learned that they want it and as soon as they threaten they are going to lose it, they go ahead and step up and play their game.”
Not looking too far ahead, if both teams remain on the same path, Mead and fellow Tri-Valley front-runner Berthoud will meet next Thursday in Berthoud for the league crown. The Mavs won the first meeting 3-0.
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Mead 3, Skyline 2
Mead (10-2, 7-1) 23 22 25 25 15
Skyline (4-9, 2-6) 25 25 20 15 7
Kills — Mead: Maddie Uilk 14; Makayla Morton 11; Skyline: Olivia Torres 7; Marie Montante 6.
Blocks — Mead: Uilk 4; Kari Lozinski 4; Skyline: Kelsey Robison 1.
Assists — Mead: Brittany Goshia 15; Skyline: K. Robinson 24.
Aces — Mead: Morton 3; Skyline: Alyssa Steed 3.
Digs — Mead: Kailey Klibbe 18; Skyline: M. Montante 20; Amber Montante 18.