It may have been a meeting of two elite teams likely headed deep into the postseason, but all it meant to the two coaches was how much work still must be done.
Tara Mueller aced Xavier into submission on Wednesday in Desert Mountain’s 26-24, 16-25, 25-20 win over the host Gators in 5A Desert Valley Region play.
The loss dropped Xavier, No. 1 in power points in 5A Division I, to 2-2 in the region while the Wolves, No. 2 in 5A Division II power points, improved to 4-0. The two losses are the Gators' only setbacks all season.
“It’s huge to take a win from them on their court," Mueller said. “We beat them when we were freshman — that was really huge — but a win’s a win and this was big.”
The junior outside hitter had 18 kills, eight aces with a powerful jump serve, five digs and a pair of blocks in the Wolves’ win.
“It was frustrating from the point that we train against that particular ball — location, the same type of thing for the last week and a half,” said Xavier coach Tim McHale of Mueller’s jump serve. “Tara hits the tar out of the ball and we got caught spectating. We train against it every day and we didn’t do what we are trained to do.”
After nearly letting the first game get away, Mueller had aces on the final two points to give Desert Mountain the advantage. In the second game, Xavier setter Kristen Preach (28 assists, four blocks) had a pair of aces that helped the Gators (19-2) pull away. Lillian Soderman (four blocks) added a kill and a block during the run.
“I don’t think we played particularly that well tonight,” said Desert Mountain coach Amanda Burbridge. "The second game was really bad. We have some passing issues that we had to make some adjustments on. We did not block well. We need to get more out of the middle. So, yes we won but I don’t think it was spectacular.”
Paige Mittelstaedt had 12 kills and cousin Amy Mittelstaedt added 10 for the Gators, who again rallied in the third game. Mueller had six kills and barely missed a couple of other chances to provide the lead for Desert Mountain (17-10).
Soderman — who uses a jump serve herself — got an ace to pull Xavier within 9-7. But Mueller got the ball back for the Wolves with a kill and proceeded to serve four straight points to give Desert Mountain a little breathing room. Xavier took advantage of some Wolves unforced errors to creep back to 17-16.