Ryan Tolman loves the fact that his team has shown the ability to comeback; he just wishes they didn’t have to do it so often.
The Desert Vista boys volleyball team has been on a heck of a run this season, entering Monday’s showdown with Brophy in the Storm Center, but there have been times where they have made it more difficult than need be.
“We’ve had a bunch of games were we were down late and I was impressed how we came back,”
Tolman said. “We had a lot of matches where we didn’t come out strong and showed some resiliency to win, but we’d rather not have to win that way.”
The Thunder enter this week 12-0 in power rankings at No. 2. The team ahead of them is Brophy so Monday’s 5:15 p.m. match could very well decided who is the top seed heading into next week’s 24-team state tournament.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Drake Moran said. “It would be nice to be (No. 1 seed) but it’s not the goal. Winning a state title has been the goal all year. It might make it easier to be No. 1, but we won’t know until we see the bracket for sure.”
After Brophy, the Thunder will host Mountain Pointe on Tuesday, play at Chandler on Thursday and finish the regular season April 30 at McClintock before the first-round begins on May 4. Of those three opponents only the Pride are assured of a postseason bid.
Mountain Pointe finishes with the match against the Thunder at McClintock on Wednesday, host Seton Catholic on Thursday, and close out the regular season by hosting Hamilton, which should be a top 12 seed, on April 30.
The Pride might not receive a first-round bye like Desert Vista but their difficult schedule will have them prepared to compete regardless of the path they have to take in Fred Mann’s final season at the helm after 20 years.
The Thunder’s path should be made easier by the great regular season, but there are teams like Boulder Creek and Highland seeded just inside the top 10 that are just as good as those in the top five.
“The seedings far from settled and we will see how it shakes out,” Tolman said. “We will just try to win the matches in front of us and hopefully it all works out for us.”
The Thunder got a feel for what some of the tough teams are going to be like in the tournament last weekend when they finished second in the Brophy Invitational by going 6-3. The defeats came against Highland twice and Boulder Creek.
Tournament action doesn’t tell the whole story as matches are the best of three instead of the best of five, while coaches are more willing to try different lineups. With that said, Holman knows one thing for sure.
“We have to get better,” he said. “We competed every time out, but we had some lulls we can’t have (at state). We have a strong senior group and they know we have to be stronger throughout and not just in spurts.”
Tolman has been down this road before with a state title team in 2007 along with several other teams that have made it to at least the quarterfinals.
“The postseason comes down to who is playing the best at the right time,” he said. “We have the talent and the right mix to get to that level.”
The starting lineup has five seniors in setter/outside hitter Kyle Pitman, outside hitter Garrett Halverson, middle blocker Ryan Adams, senior/outside hitter Drake Moran and opposite hitter/middle blocker Brock Wilson.
They have the height (four at 6-foot-5 or taller), the athleticism, the urgency of a large senior class and toughness, provided by juniors Sam Mathers at libero and Kevin Tate at outside hitter, to make it a long run.
Now if they could only play an entire match without having to scramble in comeback mode.
“We always come out with these expectations that we can turn it up when we need to,” Adams said. “There are going to be some teams (in state) where we can’t do that. We have to come out strong from the start.
“The core of our team has been talking about winning state since last year. We knew we had a lot of true potential to win it all.”
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