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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Mesa VB emerges late to beat Liberty, wins HOP InvitationalSep 1, 2012
Playing catch up nearly all match didn't seem the prescription for winning Chandler High's annual House of Payne Volleyball Invitational on Saturday afternoon.
But that was the approach -- planned or not -- Mesa High used to prevail and knock off Liberty High, 21-25, 25-20 and 18-16 at Coy Payne Gym on the campus of Chandler High.
"We didn't start well all three games," Mesa coach Amy Strawn said. "It's early and we're trying to find our identity. In this match it was having our backs to the wall, but we managed to come back and win. It's something we weren't able to to do last year."
Behind tournament most valuable player Kelcee Munk and all-tournament libero Gloria Tukuafu, Mesa pulled off the win in an exciting, tight match all the way to the finish. Munk finished with 17 kills and three blocks. Tukuafu had 15 digs and Drea Farnsworth added six blocks.
Mesa finished 8-0 in the tourney and Liberty posted a 6-2 mark. The Lions settled for second place in the 16-team tournament for the second year in a row, but that didn't dampen the spirtis of coach Courtney Johnson.
"It was a great match," Johnson said. "We had our moments. We kind of let them back in a few times. Gave them an inch and they took a mile. When their libero was serving, it kind of got in our heads.They made a lot of their runs when she served."
Liberty never trailed in the first game, but there were symptoms of things to come with Mesa's rallying ways. The Lions led 19-13 only to see that margin melt to 21-20 before they stopped a Mesa run.
Set 2 opened with a 3-0 Liberty lead. That widened to 12-7 before Mesa got clicking to even the match .Five straight points served by Tukuafu put Mesa ahead for the first time by one. The set proceeded with neither team leading by moe than one until a 20-20 deadlock. From there Mesa pulled away on three kills by Munk among the final six points scored to set up the decisive third set.
Liberty jumped to an 8-3 lead in the final set. Mesa regroupled after a timeout and managed a 10-10 tie before the set and match see-sawed to the end. Mesa had two match points and Liberty one. A block by Paige Gardner put Mesa ahead 17-16 and a hitting error by Liberty closed out the match for the Jackrabbits.
Joining Munk and Tukuafu on the all-tournament team were Liberty's Lauren Anderson, McClintock's Rachel Fagerburg, Campo Verde's Dani Hallaran, Thunderbird's Kristen Nguyen and Desert Ridge's Jessica Young.