Inside a rowdy Ernest F. Rillos Gymnasium, the Gila Ridge Hawks were able hold off a late comeback and edge the Kofa Kings in four sets Thursday night.
“Coming in, we knew it was going to be loud,” Gila Ridge coach Tricia Ellsworth said. “The gym itself is loud. We played to the pressure well and sometimes it ate us up a bit, but being able to come back and finish the match which is something I’m really proud of.”
Gila Ridge (2-2 AIA) won by set scores of 26-24, 18-25, 25-23, 25-22.
The Hawks defeated the Kings for the first time since 2016, snapping a five-match losing streak to their local rival. Thursday night’s defeat for the Kings was also their first loss to a local team since the 2016 loss to Gila Ridge.
It was a back and forth affair on Thursday night, as both teams endured runs of stretches that frequently shifted the momentum.
However, none more important than the Hawks scoring four of the last five points to capture the win after battling back from a 6-0 Kings run to tie the fourth set at 21.
Ellsworth acknowledged the maturity shown by her team, especially late in sets.
“We’re fortunate enough to have some older girls who’ve experienced this,” Ellsworth said. “We’re getting better coming together and overcoming some of those bursts of runs.”
Senior outside hitter Danielle Monroe displayed her talents — mainly in the fourth set — by powering balls through the Kings’ defense. Monroe finished with three kills in the final set and helped set the tone late in the match.
“She struggled a bit in the beginning,” Ellsworth said. “But she’s matured enough and has played enough volleyball to overcome that and come back and win the game.”
The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak, but it wasn’t easy. The Kings fought for every point and overcame self-inflicted errors in the first set.
“We definitely were in our heads a little bit,” Kofa coach Makyla Orman said. “We haven’t played them (Gila Ridge) yet and we’re still getting to know each other as a team. That second set we got out of our heads and we knew what to do to finish the game, but we couldn’t continue that. We did fight really hard throughout the rest of the sets.”
In the quest of coming together as a team, junior libero Kayla Porchas emerged as the leader on the floor. Porchas rallied her team and became the general of the defense. She led the Kings’ defense with 14 digs on the night.
“She’s amazing and such a hustler,” Orman said. “She knows the game very well. She knows how to read the ball. She’s such an incredible player and I’m extremely proud of her.”
Other contributors for the Kings included Kayla Pino, who finished with 6 digs, while Amanda Kochis tallied 20 assists and Sydney Gastelo registered 8 kills.
This is uncharted territory for a Kofa volleyball team (2-2), as they’re off to their worst start since 2010 when they began the season 3-3.
Despite the consecutive losses — including Wednesday night’s three-set defeat to Imperial (Calif.) — Orman believes in her team moving forward.
“We have a lot to work on within ourselves,” Orman said. “We’re coming off losing five really good seniors, so we’re trying to figure out who we are. However, tonight I think we figured that out.”