Mesa High's boys volleyball team swept its way to another victory Wednesday night, but sometimes the manner of the triumph lacks something to be desired.
That was the case for Mesa High coach Tony Millanes after the Jackrabbits ousted Desert Vista, 25-15, 25-21, 27-25 at Jackrabbit Gym.
“The last week or so maybe a little longer, we've been so mentally inconsistent,” Millanes said. “It seems right now we're complacent. We started out OK and the next thing you know we're not there. It ended up we were in a dogfight. Desert Vista didn't quit. If a couple calls don't go our way in the third set there was a good chance we were going to a fourth.”
Mesa, which entered the match No. 1 in the power rankings, improved to 9-0 in power-ranking matches and still has not lost a set (27-0). Mesa prevailed easily in the first set, breaking away midset and getting contributions offensively from nearly every player on the floor (five of its six starters had a kill in the opening set).
What riled Millanes was the 12-3 lead his team built in the second set. It nearly vanished in no small part thanks to Desert Vista's focus and will to win. Mesa held a 20-17 lead late after an ace by Desert Vista's Britton West. Mesa held on to take the second set.
The third set was an uphill battle for Mesa. Desert Vista led by four early and never trailed by more one until Mesa went to its standout, UCLA-bound JT Hatch, to notch a two-point win.
“The way this one went and it seems our mindset is if things go bad, JT can bail us out,” Millanes said. “That's not always going to work. We have to be more focused, stronger mentally.”
Hatch, in fact, did bail Mesa out in the third set. Desert Vista had three set points leading, 24-21. A hitting error by the Thunder made it 24-22. Hatch came through with two kills to tie it at 24. An ace by Mesa's Seth Johnson set Mesa up for set and match point. DV's Preston Brown notched a kill to even it at 25. Hatch, however, posted back-to-back kills to end Desert Vista's bid at extending the match and ending the Jackrabbits' run of sweeps.
Desert Vista (6-5 power-ranking matches) and Mesa were state semfinalists last year, losing to Gilbert and Highland, respectively. Mesa returned most of its lineup this season while Desert Vista has played with a much-less imposing team, but one that didn't give in.
“We're much smaller than last year, but stil pretty athletic,” Desert Vista coach Ryan Tolman said. “We have some skills, but are undersized. Sometimes being that way doesn't allow you to cover up mistakes when you make them…… We battled.”
Hatch finished the night with great stats. He lead both teams with 16 kills, added 10 digs and six aces. That was with Desert Vista doing a nice job defending Hatch with its block and digs. Jacob Komenda and Ben Casillas added seven kills each for Mesa and teammate Seth Johnson had eight digs. Desert Vista's leaders in kills were Brown and Austin Rabin with six apiece. Sam Mathers led defensively with 10 digs.