MURRAY — As the Titans gathered around their coaches in the fifth set of their first road match in region play, Sam Vaitai pleaded with them.
"I said, 'Please win this girls'," the Olympus head volleyball coach said laughing, after the Titans came back from a two set deficit to beat Murray 19-25, 8-25, 25-17, 25-17, 15-12. "We fought this far, let's not give it up. In seven years of coaching, this is the first time we've won here. It means a lot to us."
The Titans' comeback was made more impressive because it came after an abysmal second game. It looked like they would leave the Spartans' gym without taking a single set.
But this year's team said they have something to prove, and the effort in the final three games certainly makes a statement. The Titans' serving was significantly better in the final three sets, starting with Tuiana Filiaga, a sophomore, who changed positions because of injuries to a starter and her back-up.
"We moved her to middle (hitter) just last week," said Vaitai. She earned two aces and then served eight straight points to give the Titans enough momentum to carry them through the must-win set. At the net it was senior Danni Christensen who got the Titans rolling. She put down a tip, killed an over-set and earned a kill of a short set that her teammates to their feet.
She said that built her confidence and energized her play.
"I got a set that I was there for, and being at the net, I was just excited," she said.
She said the team struggled in the first two sets with frustration because they knew they could play better than they were showing. She said earning her first win in the Spartans' gym was as fun as she suspected it might be.
"It feels great," said Christensen, who finished with nine kills. "We get bragging rights."
Added her teammate Desiree Bradshaw, a senior outside hitter who earned a team-high 12 kills and four aces, agreed, "It's fun."
Bradshaw served points 12, 13 and 14, but then missed what could have been the game winning serve. She got a chance to make up for it with the kill that ended the match — from the back row.
Outside hitter Megan Witzel said her coach's plea made a difference in that final timeout.
"It was motivation for us to do better," said Witzel, who earned nine kills and two blocks. "We knew he was depending on us."
Murray had some great moments, but struggled with passing in the final sets. Jillian Campbell, middle hitter, had a team high 12 kills and four aces, while Alyse Horton, outside hitter, finished with 11 kills in the loss.
"We knew they were a good, athletic team," said Vaitai. "We're not very tall, but our starting seven or eight all have pretty good ball control. I think we were able to disrupt their passing and that didn't allow them to feed their big hitters."