By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
The 40-passenger bus rolled to a halt about a half hour before midnight, and one by one players from The Master’s University women’s volleyball team shuffled off.
The 60 miles back from Fullerton had distanced the Mustangs from a 3-1 loss in body, not mind. Coach Allan Vince knew the bunch needed a spark.
So he flagged down a straggler – a player, it turns out, who would drive the team forward down the stretch.
“He said, ‘Come mentally prepared to play outside (hitter) tomorrow,’” recounted sophomore Regan Tate.
The position was one Tate had grown comfortable in during four years on West Covina High’s varsity. But at Master’s last season as a freshman, the team boasted two solid outsides, so Tate moved to opposite and played in 45 sets.
Fast forward to this fall, and Tate provided the team with an apt passer and powerful swinger in the back row.
“She was getting points for us whenever she was on the court,” Vince said. “Her passion and excitement was contagious.”
Still, the Mustangs found themselves at 3-6 in Golden State Athletic Conference play with five matches to go. Worse, Master’s was in danger of missing the conference tournament set to be played at TMU on Nov. 10.
“There came a point in our season when we needed to make a change,” Vince said.
The day after the Hope defeat, Tate came prepared to play outside. “She killed it,” Vince said.
Tate racked up a career-high 15 kills in a loss to a quality Vanguard team. Then, in two matches the Mustangs had to win last week, she tallied 17 and 16 kills respectively. Master’s won both and clinched a tournament berth.
“It’s honestly pretty refreshing,” Tate said of moving to outside. “It was tough in the beginning. I had to bring it back to the basics. I had to gain confidence. … The switch flipped kind of quickly, though.”
The Mustangs hope that goes for the whole squad. Master’s closes the regular season with home games Friday and Saturday against Menlo and William Jessup.
Earlier in the year, Master’s traveled to Northern California to face those schools and dropped both.
“We’ve really been encouraged that we can fight back and that we can play how we’ve practiced,” Tate said. “It’s kind of like redemption in a way. We’re thanking God that He’s given us another chance to prove we’re a good team.”
A good team with a great outside hitter.
Basketball opens with a bang
Freshman Mike Taylor thought the pass was too high.
The 6-foot-6 forward had just curled off a screen, and now he was looking at a towering pass from point guard Hansel Atencia.
Taylor leapt for it, squeezed it with two hands and slammed it home.
Mike. Taylor. Can. ✈️. pic.twitter.com/1nJtuaDbv2
— TMU Athletics (@TMUAthletics) October 27, 2017
People covered their mouths with their hands. Some put their hands on their heads.
It was one clip in a highlight reel of dunks, 3-pointers and high-paced offense in Thursday’s 90-60 win over Bethesda University.
Brock Gardner led Master’s (1-0) with 18 points and eight rebounds.
On Saturday night, the Mustangs beat NCAA Division 2 Azusa Pacific 87-75 in an exhibition game. They host Division 2 Concordia University tonight at 6 p.m.
The Mustang women’s basketball team has played well in two exhibition losses. Master’s, a young and talented group, lost 65-54 to NCAA D2 California Baptist on Thursday and 83-65 to D1 Cal State Northridge on Saturday.
Now, the Mustangs travel to the Northwest to take on Washington State and Eastern Washington in exhibitions.
For more information about The Master’s University Athletics, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @TMUAthletics or visit GoMustangs.com