By Matt Antonic
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When Mintonette took the court against Coast, it found itself undersized, as it usually is.
Coast took advantage in the first set, controlling the pace with superior length and organization. Then Mintonette remembered why it was here at the Triple Crown NIT, with its 88-8 record last season and phenomenal technical ability.
Mintonette (Ohio) dominated the final two sets, defeating Coast (CA) on Saturday and proving why it was one of the tournament favorites, 19-25, 25-21, 15-10.
While Mintonette would eventually get rolling, it was Coast who came out looking like the better team, playing with a higher level of energy as it jumped to what looked like an easy six-point win in the first set.
“Our energy was definitely different in the second and third sets than it was in the first,” said Mintonette’s Emily Londot. “We came out kind of slow.”
A strong start to the second set provided the necessary energy boost, and Mintonette coach Max Murphy said that a high level of energy and strong fundamentals were necessary to combat the size gap. Coast was no longer able to use its size to dominate, and trailed for most of the match.
“We talked about our first contact, our first contact in the first set was not very good,” Murphy said. “We’re an undersized team at this level, and if our first contact is not there we’re gonna get pushed around and beat up.”
Mintonette asserted itself in the third set, and managed to inflict frustration on Coast players and coaches. With the set tied at four, Mintonette managed to come out on top of the longest rally of the day, prompting parents and players on the bench to fly out of their seats. Mintonette held a 5-4 lead and would not surrender it the rest of the way, winning the third set 15-10.
“I think our kids, at least for this team, their identity is just to be resilient,” Murphy said. “We went 88-8 last year, and we get punched in the mouth a lot on the first set. The resiliency of our kids and just the calm nature of how they control their emotions, a lot of it is just to kind of pick away and start to believe and then pull the match out.”
There was plenty of excitement among the Mintonette parents, and the players were just as enthused, but were remarkably cool as they gathered in their post-game huddle. As one of the tournament favorites, Stodot said it was important to perform at a high level but also to remain composed. Once they are out on the court and communicating, the fun begins.
“We know we are good when we are working together and talking and having fun,” Our team does really well when we have fun,” Stodot said.
“This team was picked to win the tournament,” Murphy added, “so we’re happy to get that past us and now it's on to the next one.”