After dropping a few points early on in the opening set of Skyline’s Tuesday night match against Region 6 rival Brighton, Eagles head coach Mondo Begay looked out at his players on the court and had simple and straightforward message to them: “Just play volleyball.”
Begay said that his message—which seemed to settle his players eventually—was delivered because his players knew the challenge Brighton presented, and as a result, he noticed that they were overthinking the game.
“Brighton is one of those teams that you know is going to come and play you and sometimes we get a little too emotional,” Begay said.
Senior team captain and University of Northern Colorado commit Mia Liddiard affirmed what her coach said, saying that she and her teammates experienced emotions that resulted in a slow start that was uncharacteristic for a team that had already won over a dozen matches heading into the regional showdown.
“It seemed like everyone was nervous (at the start),” Liddiard said. “We were all thinking too much about volleyball when we really just needed to play volleyball. We’re all good players so the more we just play volleyball like coach said, the easier it was for it to come naturally.”
And play volleyball they did, as the Eagles earned a hard-earned straight-set victory over the Bengals, handing them their second region loss of the season, while remaining undefeated in region play themselves.
The win was earned even though Skyline was missing one of its strongest hitting players in Olivia Gloekner, something that may have contributed to the jitters mentioned by Liddiard.
Using a strong service game, the Eagles began to find their groove towards the end of the first set, generating momentum that carried with them into the second set as well. Begay said that his team’s serving had undoubtedly been on of their biggest strengths.
“We are an amazing serving team,” Begay said. “Each player on our team serves differently, so whoever we send back, the other team sees a different serve.”
Begay said that his assistants, Chris Costantino and Krista Stoker, strategically plan the order of the servers so they can attempt to throw off whatever team they’re facing.
The serving, however, paid off the most in the third and final set when the Bengals played their way into a 17-15 lead, hoping to force a fourth set. Junior Kiera Little stepped up to serve and helped the Eagles respond with five straight points, retaking a lead they would hold until all the way through the end of the match.
Little finished with five aces to go along with 12 kills and 13 digs, while Liddiard (five kills, 28 assists and 12 digs) and Bree Schriever (seven kills, four digs and 100% serve percentage) also led the way statistically for Skyline.
Despite securing a 3-set victory over a tough opponent, both Liddiard and Begay were quick to say that finding consistency throughout the match was a struggle for their team.
“We kind of dipped a few times and if we had stayed consistent the win may have come a little bit easier,” Liddiard said.
Begay said that the team was lucky to find themselves playing at Skyline and that if they were not playing in their home gym, the lack of consistency may have delivered their squad a different result.
“We are an amazing serving team. Each player on our team serves differently, so whoever we send back, the other team sees a different serve.” — Skyline head coach Mondo Begay.
Nevertheless, the victory meant a lot for a team that is looking to maintain their position not only in the top of Region 6, but also their position as one of the state’s top 5A title contenders.
“For us this (win) really just solidifies what Skyline has always been for years,” Begay said. “Brighton is our toughest competitor and we’ve got Park City coming up for another challenge. As far as the state goes, we’re ranked third in RPI and it’s going to be a battle between us and teams like Bountiful, Timpview and Mountain View. We’re expecting a battle.”