November 10, 2017
It seemed like an omen, and the good kind at that.
In the last few weeks, Master’s had been at its best. The Mustangs won three of their final four regular-season matches. They watched Regan Tate blossom into a dynamic outside hitter. They earned a berth in the GSAC tournament.
They did not, however, play well in second sets. Not recently. Not all season.
In fact, in 13 of their last 14 matches, they'd lost the second set. But on Friday, with their season on the line, the Mustangs topped Menlo College in that oh-so-frustrating frame. They even took an eight point lead in the fourth set, hoping to force a fifth.
But it didn’t matter, the Oaks stormed back to capture the set and the match, 3-1, by scores of 25-14, 18-25, 25-16 and 25-22, advancing to Saturday’s GSAC tournament semifinals.
It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Menlo, the tournament’s number four seed, would end the fifth-seeded Mustangs’ year.
Master’s (11-17) challenged the Oaks in the final two sets of a 3-0 loss in September, and the Mustangs took the Oaks to five games here last week.
Friday nearly went five after Master’s ran out to a 10-2 lead in set four. Then Menlo hit the jets.
The Oaks surged into a 16-16 tie before going on to a 25-22 win. Menlo’s final point, appropriately, came on a kill by Maggie McDonald.
After a pregame ceremony highlighted her All-GSAC selection, McDonald backed up the honor with 16 kills, several of the floor-denting variety.
Tate and Jane Cisar led the Mustangs with 11 kills each. Freshman Madi Fay followed with 10. She's one reason to believe Master’s will be much improved over the next few seasons.
Yes, the Mustangs will graduate All-GSAC middle blocker Morgan Koch. But they’ll return a veteran setter and a host of up-and-comers.
Namely, Kayla Sims is slated to come back for her senior year after surpassing 900 assists for the season by adding 27 Friday. Tate, a sophomore, reached double digit kills for the fifth time in six matches.
Coach Allan Vince’s decision to move Tate back to her natural outside hitter position paid dividends down the stretch as the team won road games at Arizona Christian and San Diego Christian to clinch a berth in the inaugural GSAC tournament.
Before Friday’s match, Vince and assistant coach Joel Pederson sat in one corner of the bleachers alongside seniors Koch and Jamie Morton. The conversation appeared casual. Four hours later, the players’ TMU careers were over. But not before they helped the team turn things around and secure a bid to the tournament.
A good sign of things to come.