Anytime two rivals from the same city get together, you can expect a great game.
Then add to the plot that the two foes are atop their region standings, both defending significant winning steaks, and both ranked inside the top three in the RPI.
“It’s always a good game against Herriman,” said Mountain Ridge coach Bryan Nicholson.
For his Sentinels, it certainly was better than just good Tuesday night as Mountain Ridge captured an emotional victory over Herriman 3-1.
Both teams entered the match with sky high confidence and their stellar play had been rewarded in the form of high RPI rankings. The second ranked Mustangs traveled across town to battle the third ranked Sentinels and the emotion in the gym was present from the first serve.
“It was pretty loud,” said Mountain Ridge senior Ireland McNees of the crowd. “I thought that we kept our cool pretty good.”
It was Mountain Ridge who controlled the first set after both teams took some time to settle into the match. Leading 15-8, the Sentinels seemed to have an answer for every Herriman run, pulling away for the 25-20 set victory.
The Mustangs found themselves in rare territory trailing by a set early in the match. Not only was Herriman coming into the game on an eight-match winning streak, but seven of those eight victories had been in straight sets. The team regrouped, battled through some early adversity, and then found a groove, which helped them take a 16-12 lead. The Mustang block played a big role in keeping Mountain Ridge at bay and eventually coming away with the 25-17 win.
“The second set, Herriman played great. They got us off balance, kept us out of system, and served really tough. We had to adjust to that a bit,” said Nicholson.
From the first point, it was clear that both teams desperately wanted a third set victory. Emotions were running high and every point seemed to carry a little bit of extra weight. Eventually, the Sentinels began to gain some momentum and took the 13-7 advantage, causing Herriman to use its second and final timeout of the set.
“We just decided that we were going to talk more and run our system and not let them impact us,” said McNees, who led Mountain Ridge on the night with 14 kills.
Coach Nicholson agreed.
“Our passing got better. Our serve receive stepped up and was able to keep us in system. It was a challenge that I extended to the backrow players to step up our serve receive game and they did.”
Herriman was not about to go down quietly though. The Mustangs rallied behind some stellar serving of their own and tied the set at 17.
Would you expect anything less from these two rivals?
“My team is never out of it,” commented Nicholson. “We can take punches from people and recover, buckle down, and make plays. And that’s what they did tonight.”
Take punches and recover they certainly did, as the Sentinels regained the lead and momentum, and answered every big point from Herriman with one of their own, ultimately taking the third set 25-22.
In the fourth and final set of the night, Mountain Ridge jumped out to an early 10-3 lead and never looked back, finishing the match with the 25-10 set triumph.
“This is the best team we’ve had at Mountain Ridge so far,” said McNees, whose 221 total kills this season currently rank second in all of 6A. “I think we have learned that we can beat anyone if we all just play together. We are just going to keep taking it game by game until we get to the final.”