Waddell – As Ironwood Ridge’s girls volleyball team struggled on the floor in Wednesday night’s road game against Canyon View, the mounting frustration among the visiting team could be felt throughout the gymnasium. Everytime it seemed like the Nighthawks were gaining some momentum, an error would suddenly siphon it all away. With today’s loss, the Nighthawks are now 0-3 to start the season.
“It doesn’t look like I’ve got a senior team this year,” head coach Bill Lang said to his girls in set two, just before calling a timeout.
Lang wasn’t wrong, as the team seemed to lack any sort of urgency or hustle after things started going sideways in set one.
Falling behind 10-4, Lang called a timeout in an effort to try to rally some energy with the girls. It briefly worked, as they were able to cut Canyon View’s lead to one, but it stopped there. The Jaguars were able to quickly jump back out to another five point lead, forcing Ironwood Ridge to call another timeout. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for the Nighthawks, as they dropped the first set 25-16.
“I don’t think we have any mental grit if we can’t start well,” Lang said. “If we come out in the first set and our setter doesn’t do a good job locating the ball, our libero commits three errors within the first ten points and our outsides are negative, that’s not a good combination to win.”
Set two started off in Ironwood Ridge’s favor, taking a 2-0 lead out of the gate. However, Canyon View quickly countered to take a 5-4 lead along with the momentum, frustrating Lang as he called his first timeout of set two. It was ineffective, though, as the Jags were able to continuously build their way to a 19-14 lead.
It was a block on the next series of play which helped Ironwood Ridge tighten up the set once again before the Jags were able to once again stretch it out. After a violation gave Canyon View a 23-18 lead, Ironwood Ridge called another timeout.
“We reminded them of some of the errors they’re making,” Lang said. “If they make an error that kind of prohibits the other team from getting in their head, then that’s okay. When they make errors that change momentum, that’s not okay.”
From there, the girls were able to rally and bring it within one, flipping the script for the first time and forcing Canyon View to call a timeout.
The Nighthawks put up a strong fight, but ultimately ended up dropping set two 25-23.
Set three started out with both teams battling for the lead, and it continued on throughout the rest of the set as the teams stayed neck and neck. Towards the end of the set, Ironwood Ridge was able to jump out to a 20-17 lead and force Canyon View to call a timeout. It was too late, though, as the momentum was already behind the Nighthawks. Picking up a 25-19 win, Ironwood Ridge was able to force a fourth set.
Both teams initially fought for dominance, with things remaining close early. It wasn’t until about midway through the fourth set when Canyon View was able to go on a tear, jumping out to an 18-12 lead. Ironwood Ridge continued trying to fight, but it was too little too late. The Nighthawks ultimately dropped set four 25-20, falling to the Jaguars 3-1.
”We did a better job at the end of the second set, and in the third set we made 91-percent of our serves,” Lang said. “Canyon View did a really good job of distributing the pressure.”
It’s been a long stretch of games to start the season off for Ironwood Ridge. After starting the season on the road against the reigning 5A Champs at Horizon, the Nighthawks traveled to California over the weekend to participate in a tournament before returning home to host the 4A Champs from Notre Dame Prep on Tuesday. It led into the game at Canyon View, and set up the Nighthawks for the final game of the stretch against the Cholla Chargers on Thursday at home.
Coach Lang says he’s been speaking at length with the team recently about whether or not they have what it takes to make it to the state championships, and right now he says he just doesn’t see it with this team and how they’re playing, but the good thing is they’re mostly fixable mistakes.
“I know this is early, but they’re a senior latent team with eight seniors, and they should kind of take account of what they want their year to look like,” Lang said. “This team can be good. I told them at the beginning of the year, ‘I think you guys are good, I just don’t know if you’re good enough to be great.’”
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