By Michael Kinney, Contributing Writer
The start to the volleyball season has not been kind to Mustang. After a tough five-set loss to Moore in the opener, they dropped their first three pool play matches at the Norman High Volleyball Tournament Friday.
It looked like the Broncos were going to drop to 0-5 when they faced the Lions again in the first round game of Norman’s Silver Bracket. But after trailing 2-1, they stormed back and won their next two sets to win the match 3-2 (25-19, 20-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-11) and advance to the bracket finals.
Mustang went on to beat Ponca City 3-1 (26-24, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22) to win Silver Bracket championship.
“They played with heart. You know we got a new team this year, we had a lot of graduates last year, so we’re trying to feel through what we need to do,” Mustang coach Steve Hajek said. “A lot of new people stepping up, we only have two seniors playing for us right now, so it’s a growing experience.”
The turning point in the tournament for the Broncos wasn’t one of its victories on Saturday. It was their five-set loss to rival Yukon Friday night.
The Broncos dropped the first two sets and were on their way to getting swept by the Millers. But MHS won the third set 26-24 and the fourth set 25-17.
As in earlier matches, the Broncos had a chance to close out the contest in fifth set, but Yukon held on to win the set 15-11 and the match 3-2.
“I think it’s a lot of things. I think right now we’re such a new team where we’re learning how to play together,” Hajek said. “I think we play a little bit safe, I don’t think we are as aggressive as we should be, or can be. So when all that stuff starts playing, confidence comes into play, and you know before you know it you’re questioning every shot, and I think right now we’re just questioning just a couple of plays that we shouldn’t be, just a couple of plays.”
With the match coming at the end of a long day, Yukon coach Rachel Allred was impressed with the level of play from both teams. The rivalry between the two programs lifted the match to another level.
“It is always a whole other ballgame when it’s a rivalry game, and so we know no matter what each other are ranked, no matter how far in the season it is, the Mustang game is always gonna be up in the air to,” Allred said. “You know, it’s just it’s more passionate, it’s more intense, it’s more aggressive, so yeah, it always makes for an interesting game.”
For Hajek, keeping his team’s spirits up throughout the weekend was paramount for him. With so many inexperienced players, confidence is key.
“You know you just keep cheering ’em on the best you can, you know? Today I was their cheerleader,” Hajek said. “I just try to cheer ’em on, you know Yukon, it’s not only playing the match, but it’s you know… the rivalry that’s been going on for decades before me, you know so there’s a little more emotion involved, and it just … They’re learning, we’re learning. I just call it steppingstones, we’re just stepping and we’re gonna step through it and get where we need to be.”
The Broncos extended their win streak to Monday where they swept Putnam City North 3-0. They will be back in action Aug. 22 at Edmond North.