Two nights before facing Salem Hills in the 5A state quarterfinals Thursday afternoon, the Mountain View Bruins volleyball players viewed an NCAA tournament match from this past spring between Washington and Louisville at their team dinner.
The Bruins all watched as Washington trailed Louisville 9-3 in the fifth set as it looked to get a spot in the final four. Despite trailing by so much so late, Washington came back to win the match and advance in the tournament.
With the Washington comeback victory fresh on their minds, the Bruins found themselves in a strikingly similar position in their match with Salem Hills — trailing 8-3 in the fifth set.
Although it didn’t register to Mountain View head coach Dave Neeley, one of his assistant coaches leaned over during a timeout and said to him, “Hey, we just watched this.”
Like the Washington team they just watched, the Bruins completed the comeback to win the final set 15-11, securing s a spot in the 5A semifinals.
“We got digs, we got kills and we got out-of-system sets,” Neeley said of his team’s comeback in the final moments of the match. “We played almost flawless volleyball in the final 10 minutes of that match.”
The final set turned out to be a microcosm of the match as a whole. Tenth-seeded Salem Hills, fresh off a 4-set upset over Lehi, rode the momentum into the quarterfinal matchup, winning the first two sets over the second-seeded Bruins.
Once again, Mountain View found itself in uncomfortable yet familiar territory. Neeley cited the Bruins’ matchup with Lone Peak back in August when the Bruins came back from a two-set deficit to win the match.
“We played the toughest schedule in the state and we did it so that we would be prepared for moments like this,” Neeley said. “It’s interesting to see that decisions made 10 months ago with scheduling and matches that took place three months ago could impact a state quarterfinal match like they did.”
Like they did against Lone Peak, the Bruins rallied to win the third and fourth sets to pave the way for their dramatic win in the match’s final set.
The trio of Lucy Perez (19 kills), Mia Lee (18 kills) and Lili Suguturaga (9 kills) excelled at the net offensively for Mountain View, combining for 46 kills. The Bruins also excelled in their service game, finishing with 13 aces for the match.
The victory sets the Bruins up with a semifinal matchup against sixth-seeded Timpview, which is coming off a convincing, straight-set victory over third-seeded Skyline in its quarterfinal match.
Neeley said the top-notch service game will have to be present once again if his team wants to get past a Thunderbird squad the Bruins went 1-1 against in region play.
“We need to serve well,” Neeley said. “We feel like if we serve well we take teams out of system, and if we take teams out of system we can get digs and transition balls. … Against teams like Timpview, we tend to serve well.”
On the other side of the 5A bracket, it was a good day to be a Region 5 team, as both Bountiful and Woods Cross advanced into the semifinals where they will face each other for the third time this season (with series split 1-1 in the regular season).
The Redhawks played as though they fit the mold of a No. 1 seed as they handled Northridge in straight sets, while the fourth-seeded Wildcats won an intense, four-set match over fifth-seeded Maple Mountain.
Both semifinal matches will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday in the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University. Winners will play in the championship match at 4 p.m.