West Valley’s volleyball boys defeated the Titans at Tahquitz High School 3-0 to take the Mountain Pass League title
■ By Corey Evan / Sports Reporter
The last game of the season always draws excitement, regardless of the sport. But it draws even more excitement as coaches recognize those athletes who will depart their teams after the season. For Coach Greg Friestad of the Tahquitz High School boys volleyball team, Friday afternoon was especially humbling.
This Seniors’ Night saw nine outgoing volleyball seniors recognized; Reuben Rodriguez, Noah Bendeck, Elijah Johnson, Micah Hammond, Diego Cordero, Cody Ferrel, Jordan Jackson, C.J. Hawkins and Joe Felix. But after this little ceremony was over, there was still one more season game to handle: The stallion-like competition from West Valley.
Game One saw the Mustangs get a running start, scoring the first two points of the game before the Titans got their first. And even though the Titans tried to keep up with their rigid Mustang competition, this first game would go to West Valley 25-17. Coach Shaun Pulsipher has certainly primed his boys for this, it would seem.
The Mustangs would get a similar head start in Game Two, with the Titans nipping a lot closer at their heels the second time around. At times, it was a two-point game, with Titan fans filling the bleachers with noise pollution as their boys inched ever closer to taking the win. Between the two teams, a total of four time-outs were taken this game. But again, the Mustangs maintained their footing and kept the Titans at a relatively safe distance, all the way to a 25-20 win.
The third game of the match saw the two teams neck-and-neck, keeping just a one- or two-point difference in the early part of the game. The only thing close to breaking these teams’ concentration was the flies that had followed fans inside. But the two teams kept on each other as if they were swatting flies. Leads went back and forth and in the midst of it all, West Valley saw one or two penalties imposed at times for unsportsmanlike conduct. Too much neighing at the Titans, maybe? But once the Mustangs were reined in, they galloped to match point, 25-19 to take the Mountain Pass League championship.
Friestad is nonetheless proud of how his boys held their own against such a tough team.
“It just comes down to a few mistakes; a few ball-handling errors, change in the momentum of the game,” said Friestad. “Next thing you know, we’re just digging out of a hole… It’s hard to get (the momentum) back against a team like that.”
And Pulsipher recognizes that propelling his boys to league champs was no walk in the park, either.
“We worked hard all season, it’s been a long-time coming,” he said. “It’s been eight years since we’ve had a league championship here.”
Pulsipher’s boys were certainly over the moon, especially after West Valley officials present at this game gave the champs T-shirts with their newly-earned title emblazoned across them.
On an even more bittersweet note, this year Friestad will retire from coaching at Tahquitz. Pulsipher had some nice words to say about Friestad’s influence on his career:
“Greg’s teams won many league championships over the years, including two while I was one of his players in 2001 and 2002,” said Pulsipher. “He taught me everything I know about volleyball. He has always been a mentor for me and it’s likely because of his influence that I became a volleyball coach and a PE teacher.”
Congratulations are in order for the outgoing seniors, their outgoing coach, and this year’s league champs! But the Mustangs had better not slow down yet: Their first postseason game will start May 8. Keep an eye on the West Valley Athletics website to preview the CIF tournament brackets at www.wvhsmustangs.net.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.