Phoenix — The Tucson Badgers boys volleyball team has officially brought a close to the 2022 season following a tough loss on the road in the play-in round on Tuesday afternoon. Facing off against No. 16 Maryvale, the No. 17 Badgers were swept by the Panthers in a must-win situation and making for a long bus ride back home for the senior-heavy team.
“I mean, I think this is par for the course, they either show up or they don’t,” Tucson head coach Amanda Larriva said, expressing her frustration. “They pick and choose when they play.”
Things got off to a rough start right out of the gate, as communication issues were the theme of the night for Tucson. Maryvale quickly took hold of a 6-0 lead in the first set before the Badgers were finally able to get on the board off a net violation by the Panthers. With the momentum already in their favor, the Panthers continued working their way out to a 17-4 lead before Larriva called a timeout to try to regroup and talk about the lack of communication on the court.
“When I called a timeout that’s exactly what I said,” Larriva said. “We needed to communicate. There was no talking.”
Tucson started to rally a bit after the timeout, but it was too little too late for set one. Maryvale was able to take a 1-0 lead, concluding the first set with an ace to win by a score of 25-13.
The Badgers found more of their competitive nature going into the second set, where it was a back and forth battle from the start over who would take the lead. Knotted up at 8, the Panthers were finally able to break away to a bit of a lead, going on a 4-0 run.
Determined to battle back, the Badgers tied things up once again at 12, where the two continued to battle back and forth again for the lead. A double hit violation against Tucson finally gave Maryvale an opening to attack, where they executed with precision to work their way to a 25-20 win in set two and garner a 2-0 lead.
With their backs against the wall, Tucson was in a must-win situation going into set three to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Opening up set three, Tucson was able to score first, hoping to set the tone for a rally to close out the game. Unfortunately for the Badgers, a number of violations and errors quickly found Maryvale leading set two 11-5, forcing coach Larriva to call another timeout.
Tucson slowly but surely worked to cut away at the lead, feeling the walls starting to close in on the season. Rallying back, the Badgers tied things up at 16, where they kept it close for the remainder of the set as they weren’t going to back down.
Tied up at 24, set three was anyone’s set, it would just come down to execution. Seemingly more locked-in and focused, Maryvale was able to snag the final two points to take set three by a score of 26-24 and sweep Tucson 3-0 to advance.
For Larriva, the loss was an upsetting one because of what she felt was a lack of effort and focus from her team.
“It was an ugly loss,” Larriva said. “I don’t mind losing if there’s effort and hard work behind it.”
While it was an upsetting finish to the season, it still was one of the better ones for Tucson in recent years.
“It’s definitely nice to be back in the play-in game,” Larriva said. “The last time we were here was 2019.”
With only five student athletes set to return for next year’s squad, the Badgers certainly will have a lot to focus on in the offseason. Larriva says there’s a lot of work to be done, but she’s looking forward to continuing to grow with a new group of individuals.
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @LittWithBritt