The soft underbelly of a lot of volleyball teams is right in the middle of the net.
With the lineup Salpointe Catholic put on the floor at the Storm Center on Tuesday, Desert Vista might have been in trouble.
But the Thunder are anything but soft in the middle.
The Desert Vista duo of Brock Wilson and Ryan Adams reiterated their dominance Tuesday when the No. 1 Thunder beat No. 8 Salpointe Catholic, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22, in the Division I quarterfinals.
“Me and Ryan knew that we had to take care of the middles and that spreads out our other offense,” Wilson said. “Once we did that we just took care of business and got it done.”
Wilson finished with 10 kills and 1.5 blocks. His partner in the middle, Adams, added another 8 kills.
The Thunder advance to Thursday’s semifinal round at Gilbert and will take on No. 4 Gilbert
The student section was at full throttle and it helped the Thunder close out the match in three games.
“We had a lot of help from our crowd, our crowd was electric tonight,” coach Ryan Tolman said. “They were electric and our student section was fantastic tonight.”
While Wilson and Adams helped control the middle, senior setter Drake Moran was targeting Salpointe’s shorter backline, finishing with 12 kills of his own and 18 assists.
The Thunder also relied on aggressive serving against the Lancers, but that turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword.
“We missed a bunch of serves tonight because we were trying to serve so aggressively to try to keep them out of rhythm,” Tolman said. “For the most part I think we did a good job of that.”
Some of those missed serves helped launch late Salpointe scoring runs
At one point up 14-7 in the second game, it looked like Desert Vista would win it in a blowout but the Lancers managed to claw back and found themselves only down 22-19 near the end.
A well-timed timeout from Tolman got the Thunder back on track, as the Thunder won the game 25-20 with the final kill in the second game coming from Wilson.
The surges from the Lancers were expected.
“Good teams are going to put runs on you and you just have to withstand them,” Tolman said. “We always expect a team to come back, we never expect them to go away easy and in the third game they did the same thing.”
As close as things got, the team was never overly fazed.
“We got nervous a few times, but to be honest we had it the whole game,” Wilson said. “We were comfortable.”
In that final game, Salpointe would go on a late 9-4 run down 21-13 but couldn’t quite match the Thunder falling 25-22 in the end.
After the match went final, the all-white-clad student section, which seemed to have been the X-factor, stormed the court.
“If we’d had to go down to Salpointe and play in Tucson, it probably would have been a whole different story,” Tolman said. “We’re hoping they travel with us on Thursday to Gilbert and hoping they give us some energy there too.”
Smith is a junior journalism major at Arizona State. He is a summer intern at the AFN.