Roller-coaster ride for GHS volleyball

Host Mustangs survive long day
Three wins. Three losses.

Two teams.

By the end of an extraordinarily long Saturday at the Mustang Classic, it was hard to figure out the host Gilroy High volleyball team.

“It’s like we have a split personality,” senior Kendall Costa said.

In the morning session of the 15-team tournament, GHS easily defeated Mt. Madonna (25-17, 25-11) and then avenged an early-season loss with a three-game victory over Anzar (25-18, 22-25, 15-8).

The Mustangs looked radically different than the team that came limping in with a nine-match losing streak, which included an embarrassing loss to Alisal last week.

For the first time all season, team members were communicating effectively on the court.

“It looked like we had finally found a voice,” head coach Sam Navarez said. “They were talking and jelling much more.”

Then the afternoon came. The second half of pool play came.

And in the words of senior Amy Trujillo, the Mustangs “just got lazy.”

Against a tough Arroyo Grande team that eventually repeated as tourney champions, Gilroy was simply overpowered (12-25, 8-25). But against a not-so-tough Watsonville team, the ‘Stangs faltered on their own.

As the Wildcatz rallied from 22-19 to win the last six points of Game 1, Gilroy’s confidence was visibly draining away. In the second game, silence continued to haunt the Mustangs and they bowed out 25-15 without much of a fight.

“We started out the day talking and doing all the right things,” Trujillo said. “Then it was like we didn’t even want to be there for the next two.

“So after we got killed, we decided to try a little harder and have some fun out there.”

And it worked – even as Gilroy dropped its first match of the evening session.

Pushed into the cramped quarters of the side gym after the loss to Watsonville placed them in the consolation bracket, the Mustangs started playing loose again.

Competing against a very talented Half Moon Bay team – a squad expected to be in the winners’ bracket – Gilroy looked re-energized, losing just 20-25, 21-25.

Then, as the evening grew late, the Mustangs looked as good as ever against Soledad, dominating 25-16, 25-14 in their sixth and final match of the day.

Despite finishing in seventh place – not medaling for the first time in the three-year history of the tournament – the Mustangs did end on a solid note.

“For me personally, I’m very disappointed we didn’t medal,” Costa said. “But I think we were all really happy with that last game.

“We forgot about any pressure and just went out and played.”

Why the sudden change?

“Honestly,” she responded, “I think we were all just delirious.”

It had been quite a day. The team began the marathon at around 6:30 in the morning with a breakfast meal provided by setter Katherine Hussey’s mother.

By the time their final match came to a close, it was around 8:30 in the evening.

“That breakfast seems like about a week ago,” Trujillo said after the win over Soledad.

Even so, the team had to return from a short trip to Denny’s to help clean up the gyms.

“I think it’s beyond delirious at this point,” Navarro said as he rushed from court to court, making sure everything finished smoothly.

The tournament would have ended hours earlier, but a jammed basketball goal dashed the plan of two simultaneous matches in the main gym.

“But all the coaches and players have been very tolerant of the situation,” Navarez said. “I appreciate their patience.”

After two weeks of misery, he also appreciated the effort of his Mustangs.

“I’m extremely proud, because after a rough time they proved to themselves they can play well,” Navarez said. “We can be competitive. We can win again.

“Now for the rest of the season we know that.”

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