10/10/2013 1:30:00 PM Marauders struggling mentally, drop 3-0 heart-breaker to Thunderbird
Junior Sarah Ortiz, No. 3, returns an attack to set-up her setter while No. 15, Laura Wylie, watches. Against Thunderbird High School, Ortiz led the Marauders with 24 attacks and eight kills. VVN/Travis Guy
Senior Tristen Meacham jumps for the kill. The pass was set by fellow senior Angel Chavez. VVN/Travis Guy
In its most recent loss, the Mingus Union volleyball team (4-7 overall, 3-2 conference) showed that if it does make it to state, the Marauders might not have the mental acumen to advance past the first round.
After racking up three wins and looking like the girls had turned the corner, the Marauders dropped their next three, including a disappointing 3-0 loss to Thunderbird High School in the girls' most recent match.
"The thing I keep telling them is that we can beat every team physically, but we're just losing mentally, and that's every game we've played," said head coach Amanda Puckett. "So every game we're losing, it's just a completely mental thing for them."
Hosting the Chiefs on Oct. 8, Mingus came out ready to play. It was obvious that both teams were evenly matched from the get-go. They played each other point-for-point, but it was the visiting Chiefs that were able to capitalize off Marauders mistakes to take a slight lead.
Thunderbird held onto a 3-to-4-point lead for the first half of the set, but began to pull away following Mingus' first timeout with the score sitting at 15-11. As the Marauders committed a few more mistakes, the Chiefs built the required momentum to take a decisive lead in the first game. After that first timeout, Thunderbird went on a 10-2 run to close out the opening game, 25-13.
The Marauders came out on fire in the second game, notching the first 5-points before Thunderbird scored its first point. By the time the visitors called a timeout, the Marauders had a commanding 8-2 lead and seemed to be running away with the game behind.
Mingus' offense seemed to be on point. Whether it was Angel Chavez slamming an attack across the court, or Sarah Cochrane or Tristen Meacham coming up the middle or Sarah Ortiz tipping the ball over the net, when the hitters were on, they were on. For the night, six Marauders notched double digit attacks, but none hit more than eight kills (Ortiz).
"We're just really mental and need to stop getting in our heads and do what we know how to do," Ortiz said. "We have the ability to win, we just need to apply it."
But as quick as the offense can be at rebounding from a bad set, it can spin into a free-fall that the girls cannot recover from.
The Chiefs began to chip away at their deficit, getting within three. From there it was another back-and-forth contest. Thunderbird kept clawing its way closer to the home team's score, eventually knotting the game at 18. One Mingus point and two Thunderbird points later, the Chiefs took their first lead of the game and never looked back. The Marauders were not able to rally and win the set, losing the middle stanza 25-21.
The girls were doing their best not to get down on themselves, but the looks on their faces from the first game to the final frame had changed. Instead of laughing off mistakes and points scored against them, the Marauders fought harder, not necessarily smarter, to make up the ground.
The third stanza had the same look as the first two. It was another back-and-forth contest with Mingus Union holding onto a slight lead for the majority of the game. Just past the halfway point, the Marauders took a five-point lead. As soon as the home team took control, the Chiefs fought back and whittled their differential to two points, 18-16. A 3-1 run from Thunderbird tied the game at 19, and the same thing that happened in the middle game happened again. The Chiefs closed the match with a 6-1 run that sealed Mingus' fate.
"We just need to finish it," said senior setter Aubrea Tuell. "We haven't been able to finish it, and that's our biggest problem, finishing a game."
There were moments when the girls got behind that it looked as if they would be able to rally. Whether it was Chavez digging Thunderbird blocks at the base of the net to keep the volley going or Tuell setting her teammates for kills, the Marauders tallied 24, the Marauders had flashes of their potential.
Leading up to the game, the Marauders dropped two non-conference matches. The first match they lost was to Youngker High School, 3-0, and the second to Coconino, 3-2.
"If I knew the answer, we would be winning games," Puckett said. "I don't know what it is. They just have to find a way. They have to dig down deep and find a way, and they're not right now, unfortunately."
If the Marauders had been able to win, they would have improved their record in Division III, Section III to 4-1, putting them in second place in the section and improving their chances of making it to the state playoffs. Instead, according to rankings released on Oct. 9, Mingus Union sits at No. 24 with a 4-6 overall record.