By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
The weekend could have been stressful. Instead, the Mustang women’s volleyball team took a collective deep breath.
“We were much looser and more confident this weekend than when we went to Westmont,” said Master’s junior Madi Fay, a Hart High grad. “The games were actually fun.”
It looked that way.
The No. 25 Mustangs rallied to beat No. 21 Vanguard University, 3-2, in Costa Mesa on Saturday night behind double-digit kills from Fay and Regan Tate.
Katie Emmerling totaled 41 assists for Master’s, which performed a similar if less dramatic turnaround Friday in a 3-1 win over San Diego Christian. The win over Vanguard (15-3 overall, 6-1 GSAC), which dropped the Lions to their first Golden State Athletic Conference loss and moved the Mustangs within one victory of first place, was a matter of grit. TMU (10-7, 5-2) won the opening set but dropped the next two.
After a 25-18 win in set four and a 15-8 win in set five, Tate is convinced the Mustangs are built to compete against anyone.
“I think it speaks to our resilience and the fact that we have the talent and all the components to succeed against any team we face,” said Tate, who was named GSAC Attacker of the Week after tallying a match-high 13 kills against Vanguard. “The amount of excitement and teamwork that every one of us displayed after the deficit showed that we can rally around each other and pick ourselves up out of anything.”
An 8-7 hole in set five didn’t prove to be an exception. The Mustangs scored the match’s final seven points — the last of which coming on a Fay solo block — to move their winning streak to three matches.
Fay finished with 12 kills in what was TMU’s second win over a ranked opponent in 2019. It was the Mustangs’ third straight victory over Vanguard dating to last season, a mark that represents their longest winning streak against the Lions since 2013.
Vanguard, for its part, was coming off a five-set win Friday over No. 17 Westmont, a team that swept the Mustangs 3-0 earlier this month in Santa Barbara.
“Knowing they won last night really hyped us up and gave us the extra nudge to work that much harder tonight,” said senior Jane Cisar, who finished with eight kills.
McKenna Hafner recorded a team-high 30 digs and Mackenzie Delo added 22 digs for the Mustangs, who are now 2-3 on the year in five-set matches.
Coach Allan Vince appreciated his team’s resolve.
“They stayed together, they played every point together, and they experienced sweet victory together,” Vince said.
Mustang men shine at cross-country invite
The Master’s University welcomed 73 collegiate programs, 31 high school varsity teams and more than 1,500 athletes to Central Park in Saugus on Saturday. But the Mustangs were concerned with much smaller numbers.
The No. 13-ranked Mustang men finished second overall, ahead of No. 6 Embry-Riddle Arizona and No. 10 Lewis-Clark State (ID), a development that could mean a significant jump in the next NAIA poll.
“I definitely think this team can contend for a top-four spot in the NAIA,” said Master’s coach Zach Schroeder, adding, “In our minds, we knew that. But I think today’s performance shows we’re a top-five team.”
Wesley Methum enjoyed a breakout performance for the Mustangs, finishing the 8K course in a time of 25 minutes, 8.7 seconds. It was good for seventh place overall in a field that featured runners from UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and the No. 7-ranked team in NCAA Division 3, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, which won the eighth rendition of TMU’s home race Saturday.
Stephen Pacheco was the next Mustang to cross the finish line, doing so in 25:17.5 and earning 10th place. Each of TMU’s top five runners finished in the top 25, boosting the Mustangs ahead of third-place UCLA and 11th-place Westmont, routinely TMU’s toughest competition for the Golden State Athletic Conference title.
“It was a super great opportunity to come out and race against some of these higher ranked teams in the nation,” Methum said of finishing ahead of Embry-Riddle and Lewis-Clark. “I know we have a really solid crew this year. We’ve been training hard for so long. It was a great opportunity to come out and see where we’re at, and I think we really performed well.”
The Mustangs’ top five Saturday included Golden Valley grad Daniel Rush, who finished 15th out of 314 runners in a time of 25:23.3.
For the Master’s women, Arianna Ghiorso led the way with a 12th place finish (out of 308 runners) in a time of 18:17.3. The Mustangs finished 14th out of 31 teams.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.