Mesa High's boys volleyball team had a chance to avenge its only loss of the two-day Wolf Howl Invitational late Saturday afternoon. The Jackrabbits didn't let the opportunity pass them by.
Leading virtually all the way in both sets, Mesa pinned down Gold Division title with a very tight 25-23, 25-23 victory over Brophy Prep at Chandler High's Coy Payne Gymnasium. Mesa lost in three sets to Brophy to open bracket seeding play on Saturday morning.
"That's how a championship match should be," Mesa coach Tony Millanes said. "We got off to good starts, but every time we were close (to winning) they'd get three good jump serves, or big blocks or kills. It wasn't easy."
Mesa, which lost in three sets to Brophy to open play on Saturday,Leading the way for Mesa, which posted a 10-1 record in the tournament that began Friday morning, was senior outside hitter JT Hatch. Hatch had a big match, tallying 14 kills in just the two sets plus 10 digs. His early success in the opening set and the overall desire his teammates showed in the infant stages forced Brophy coach Tony Oldani to call time for a pep talk.
Oldani wasn't happy with the lack of desire he saw compared to how Mesa came out and told his team as much. They did respond despite bowing in straight sets.
"For this early in the season they've show me they are resilient," Oldani said. "The other night against Desert Vista we were down 0-2 and they came back to win. They've show me they'll continue to battle and battle. They just needed a little reminder."
When Oldani asked for time in the opening set, Brophy trailed, 10-6. They was more hustle after that, but Mesa's execution made it hard for Brophy to cut down the lead. Mesa was up 21-16 when Brophy managed seven of the next 10 points to pull within 24-23.
Brophy served at that point, but Mesa put together a perfect serve receive, set and set-point kills with Seth Johnson (6 kills and 11 digs for the match) doing the honors.
Mesa jumped out faster in the second set, taking a 6-1 thanks to the hitting of Jacob Komenda (six kills) and Hatch. Brophy rallied to take its only lead of the match at 13-12. Three kills by Hatch and a hitting error by Brophy put Mesa up 23-19. The Broncos Billy Andrew and Cooper Munhall led a run that tied things at 23. Andrew led Brophy with six kills and Munhall had five.
Brophy couldn''t take the lead serving at 23-all with a service error. Mesa closed the match with a Komenda kill.
"We've got some weapons and the experience helps us with our attack scheme," Millanes said. "This was a great tournament to open the season. Chandler and Hamilton were tough, So is Brophy. We were in a bunch of tough matches today."
Mesa advanced to the finals of the gold bracket defeating Hamilton 25-22, 26-24. Next it knocked off Chandler, 25-15, 25-22. Brophy also didn't lose a set in the final eight bracket play until the final. The Broncos beat Sandra Day O'Connor, 25-19, 25-23 and then Gilbert, 25-15, 25-10. Boulder Creek and Desert Ridge were the other teams qualifying for the Gold Division in the 22-team tournament.