Call it fate, the power of the bracket gods or good old fashioned coincidence it only seemed right that Mountain Pointe and Perry met in the first round of the Division I state girls volleyball playoffs.
The fact that the match went five games on Tuesday night before No. 9 Mountain Pointe beat No. 8 Perry, 25-21, 25-27, 21-25, 25-19 and 15-10 was even more fitting as a Fred Mann coached team, if nothing else, is resilient.
Considering the imprint Mann, who is in his first year at Perry after 20 years at Mountain Pointe, has had on each program, one could see a five gamer happening before the outset.
“I woke up this morning and the first thing that came into my head was it was going to go five,” Pride coach Karen Gray said. “They’re a tough team and I knew it was going to be a war.”
Perry (25-15) showed some resiliency after losing the first game and trailed 7-1 in the second before winning 27-25 in a back-fourth match that saw eight ties and three lead changes down the stretch.
The Pumas led the fourth match 13-10 and 16-15 but were never able to make a run to close out the match despite the efforts of Taylor Knoll, Maddie LeBlanc and Talise Babbit.
“The whole match was one team getting a run and the other team getting a run,” Mann said. “We got a lot to learn still and improving to do. It’s been a positive experience.
“We thought we had a shot tonight, but we missed too many serves.”
The Pride (20-19) showed the signs of a young team – playing really well at times and not so much at others – but never gave into the thought of calling it quits when they were just nine points from elimination.
“We relaxed a little bit and we expected them to lay down (after going up 7-1),” junior Kendall Gray said. “We held it together and it’s another sign of how much better we are compared to early in the season.
“We are completely different. We work together and run things so much faster. We were good players, but weren’t good together. Now we are a good team.”
They’ll get the chance to prove just how good they are on Thursday when Mountain Pointe, which was led by Kaylah Lupoe, Jessica Leo, Christine Winkelman and Gray, travels to take on No. 1 Horizon (36-2).
“I went to Villanova and I have been telling them about the Villanova-Georgetown basketball game,” coach Gray said, referring to the 1985 national title game won in an upset by Villanova. “You never, you gotta play the game.”
Sixth-seeded Desert Vista made quick work of No. 11 Mountain Ridge on Thursday in a three-game sweep to advance to the Elite Eight where the Thunder will face No. 3 Sandra Day O’Connor.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.