Mullen splits in regionals, but can't advance

By Neil H. Devlin, Mullen Sports Information Director
'Stangs fall to Thunder, beat Huskies, end injury-riddled season at 11-14.
COLORADO SPRINGS -- At least, they went out swinging before being forced to watch it end.

Mullen volleyball wrapped up its season on Saturday in Class 4A Region 9 by splitting two matches.

The Mustangs, seeded No. 28 in the 32-team field, were easily swept in a three-setter (15-25, 14-25, 13-25) by host Discovery Canyon, the No. 9 seed, then rallied to take out No. 16 Battle Mountain in a five setter (22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 15-11).

Still alive, Mullen suddenly became Battle Mountain super fans -- if the Huskies could beat the Thunder, there would be a three-way playoff for the region’s state spot.

But there was none – Discovery Canyon won by a sweep and the Mustangs ended 11-14.
In a second consecutive season in which injuries forced the Mustangs to find out how deep their roster was or wasn’t, they scrambled and broke out the Scotch tape and glue … out of necessity.

“Everybody definitely stepped up,” Mustangs head coach Greg Oliver said.

In the opening match, Mullen suffered unanswered runs in all three games against the Thunder, which had kills, blocks and regularly found openings against the Mullen set.

Predictably, the Mustangs were a bit stunned to start the second match, but gradually regained their confidence and seemed to wear down the Huskies. Twice Mullen found itself trailing in games only to respond.

“We came out in the first match with a lot of energy and came out the second with not as much because we lost the first one,” Oliver said. “We definitely were a little flat the second match, but I was proud of how we played.”

Senior Molly Zink had a lot of moments for the Mustangs. So did junior Jessica Oates-Stamm, who came up from the junior-varsity squad. Oliver said Sydney Wills “had some good swings” and senior Bella Wallrath turned in a series of plays, including a fantastic save of a ball from going into the stands that she put back into play.

“It got everybody on the team pumped up,” Oliver said.

Ultimately, the air went out of Mullen’s sails as Discovery Canyon improved to 18-7 by downing the Huskies and advancing, but the Mustangs offered no complaints or excuses. They won their first six matches of the season, weathered some rough stretches, including against a series of 5A heavyweights in the Centennial League, and still flirted with advancing to the state tournament that will begin for all five classifications on Thursday at the Denver Coliseum.

Zink, ever positive, said “I think overall it has been a great season. I think we’ll leave with a good feeling. We all put everything we had on the floor.”

Saturday also capped the fall season for Mullen’s seven sports. Practice for winter sports will begin on Nov. 18.