OREM — On the verge of being swept in the quarterfinals of the 4A volleyball tournament, it wasn’t their dream of a state title that helped the Mountain Crest Mustangs rally to victory.
It was their memory of all those long, grueling practices that persuaded the Mustangs to change their mindset.
“It was just not acceptable to lose that way,” said Mountain Crest senior Milanna Barnes after the Mustangs came back to upset the fourth-ranked Skyline Eagles, 13-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21, 15-12, on Thursday. “We knew what we had to do, and we went out and did it.”
The senior outside hitter said their abysmal start came from selfish play.
“At the beginning, we were playing individually,” said Barnes, who led her team’s offense with 13 kills. “(In the third set), we pulled together as a team, and that makes all the difference in the world. We talked to each other more, and we trust in each other. At the beginning, we just weren’t mentally there.”
The Eagles were so dominant in the first two sets, it looked like they would sweep Mountain Crest in less than an hour. Instead, the Mustangs rallied to make the match one of the most exciting contests of the day.
Skyline was led by sophomore outside hitter Abby Selcho, junior outside hitter Kassie Sorensen and junior setter Helena Wolff.
The Eagles dominated the first set, with the Mustangs making the second set more interesting. It was between the second and third sets — as the Mustangs were on the brink of losing — that head coach Lori Karaghouli reminded the players of what they’d sacrificed for this moment.
“We just reminded them how hard we worked all season,” Karaghouli said. “They started thinking about how hard we practice, how hard we worked. They started thinking, ‘We don’t want to go down the way the first two games were going.’”
That began the turnaround that started at the net. In addition to Barnes’ big hits, senior middle blocker Marissa Perrett added seven kills and five solo blocks. Setter Madison Snow finished with 27 assists in distributing the ball.
“I was proud of the way they came back in the third game,” the coach said. “This team is a team of competitors. They work hard every single day in practice, and they really want to win. They really want to compete. I knew we could make a game of it once we started coming back.”
After the fourth set, when the Mustangs tied the match up, they came out in the decisive fifth set and fell behind 6-1.
Karaghouli just shook her head and smiled when asked about the start of the fifth set. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the Mustangs were going to play to the final whistle.
“This team really wants to compete and work hard,” she said. “They have winner attitudes.”
With the victory Mountain Crest becomes the only unranked team in Saturday's semifinals. The Mustangs will face top-ranked Timpview at 12:30 p.m., while second-ranked Sky View will face third-ranked Woods Cross at 10:30 a.m.
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