No. 6 Bears open state with trouncing of No. 11 Mesquite
PRESCOTT VALLEY — It’s been well over a decade since Bradshaw Mountain volleyball won a state match. But just like that, the dry spell has finally been broken as the Bears defeated Mesquite 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Riding the wave of one of their most prosperous seasons ever, the Bears were seeded No. 6 in the 4A state tournament. This pitted them against No. 11 Mesquite in the first round and while the road to victory was bumpy, the Bears capitalized when they needed to most.
With their rollicking home crowd behind them in the “Bear Den”, Bradshaw Mountain came out with a serious sense of urgency during Tuesday’s match. The Bears asserted their dominance over the Wildcats, who had a few big hitters of their own.
In the first set, the Wildcats kept the Bears’ lead within striking distance until about halfway through the set. Bradshaw Mountain then caught a rhythm to gain separation and take the opening set 25-15.
The Bears already smelled blood at this point and were just as impressive in the following set. Even though Mesquite held slim leads early on, Bradshaw Mountain once again caught fire again in the middle stages to win 25-16 for a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I think our serving was pretty good and also our defense was really good,” said Bears’ OH Abigail Platt.
However, a good group like Mesquite wasn’t about to roll over and get swept. The Wildcats regrouped during third set and gave the Bears fits, especially with the way they stymied the offense with big blocks.
Toward the end of the third set, the Bears tried everything to claw their way back but just couldn’t gain any traction. Bradshaw Mountain did manage to make a big play when OH Jordyn Moser got a dig that popped up high out of bounds. OH Mailani Manuel then kept it alive, allowing S Nicole Shaver to bump it back over the net where Mesquite ultimately hit it out of bounds.
While that play did send the crowd into a frenzy, it was to no avail as the Wildcats had already built up too much momentum and claimed the third set 25-20.
The fourth set saw both sides pick up from where they left off as the Bears played catch-up most of the way. The Wildcats made a big push to force a fifth set but the Bears refused to let that happen.
Trailing 19-17, Bradshaw Mountain sprung back to form and strung together big plays that earned them a 24-20 lead. Despite the Wildcats squeezing in one last point, the Bears’ long-winded hunt for a playoff win was finally over as Manuel let a high-arching lob fall out of bounds for the 25-21 victory.
“We had a lull in the third game and in the fourth game, I knew it was going to be a battle,” said Bears’ head coach Karrie Platt. “It wasn’t going to come easy and we were going to have to fight and dig deep and that’s exactly what I told the girls after the match. They dug deep.”
Setter McKell Clifford had herself an impressive outing, getting the double-double with 30 assists and 10 digs. Moser (15 kills, 17 digs) and Manuel (11 kills, 21 digs) also tallied double-doubles while Sydney Rittershaus contributed nine kills and four blocks.
The win over Mesquite earned Bradshaw Mountain a highly-anticipated rematch with Grand Canyon Region rival Flagstaff, which will be Thursday on the road. The No. 3 Eagles edged the Bears twice this season but both matches were instant classics that went down to the wire.
Karrie Platt said she is feeling optimistic that the third time will be the charm as they look to topple Flagstaff, which made quick work of Cactus in its first-round match on Tuesday.
“We’ve seen them twice, they’ve seen us twice, we know each other’s game plans and I think we can win it,” Karrie Platt said. “I think we have the talent and if we can stay mentally strong, we can win that game.”
Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.