In previous years, Mountain Ridge boys volleyball would make the 6A play-in round, but usually as a 21, 22 or 23 seed.
Tonight, the Mountain Lions are the #10 seed in the bracket, hosting #23 Chandler Basha at 6 p.m.
At times this season, Deb Moore's team was in the top eight of the 6A rankings and in line for a bye. Late losses to Boulder Creek and national #1 ranked O'Connor derailed that, but the team still hit two crucial goals.
"Finishing ranked in the top 10 and playing at home for the playoffs was a goal. We have a really good student section," Moore said. "One of the main goals we had when in came in a few years ago was to make men's volleyball relevant again. It used to be relevant in 2012 or so when my son was playing. They feel that their legacy is that they have brought that level up."
Moore has coached volleyball, in one form or another, for three decades. She took over this program in 2021 and changed the atmosphere.
Senior setter Troy Gafford credited Moore. for a complete 180, from negative seasons with losing records to winning records and great games. Mountain Ridge was 16-14 overall, but 12-5 in the games that counted.
“It’s definitely come down to coaching. It’s black and white. The whole program has changed. We hadn’t been in the playoffs since 2012 until she started last year. A lot goes to the team chemistry she tries to put us in. She has a lot of team dinners, team retreats and tries to get us to know each other better and be friends on the court and off,” senior libero Alex Sedwick said.
Moore also said the team has affirmation circles after every game, win or lose, thinking about how they can inspire their teammates.
After relying on an elite player last year in Mason Henkels, the Mountain Lions now spread the ball around. Four players have more than 125 kills.
“This year we’ve got a lot more hitters we can spread the ball around to. It’s not one person carrying us. The energy this season is unmatched. We’re consistent and have fans that gave been coming out to the games,” Gafford said.
Gafford did the honors with his serve after his team fell behind Liberty 7-1 in the fifth set at home April 21. Mountain Ridge finished Liberty on 14-2 run.
It was a fitting cap to senior night.
"Even when they aren't playing well and not terminating the ball and they get behind five or six points, they don't think they are done. They really do think the other team went on a run, we can go on a run too. Whereas in the past, I don't think they believed that," Moore said.
That night, the whole team stayed energized despite coughing up a 19-14 lead in the fourth set with a 2-1 advantage in games.
“The bench is our cheerleading squad. You can’t see how much they help unless you’re here,” Sedwick said.
Moore said Sedwick is the best libero in the state. Several other contributors are relative newcomers.
Several seniors who did not play in 2021 joined the team this year, she said. joining Gafford, Sedwick and top opposite hitter/blocker Ethan Montag-Caouette.
"Ethan does an amazing job. He does great work," Moore said. "Troy and our other setter Maddux (Goron) have been great. We added Brady Girnius, Cale Stephenson and the Bevers on defense and they brought belief, energy and really great defense."
Win tonight and Mountain Ridge advances to the main draw Friday night. The Glendale school earned one last game in front of the Ridge Army.
“Our student section, hearing your family and friends helps every single time,” Gafford said.
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