by Matthew Antonic
KANSAS CITY, MO -- The power behind Skye Stokes' hits was quite noticeable to the spectators gathered around Court 16 at the Kansas City Convention Center on Saturday afternoon. Her Mintonette teammates and coaches were used to it, but not her opponents from Coast, who were thrown completely out of sorts by it.
“We still don’t really know how she does it,” said Mintonette coach Ronny Mahlerwien. “She’s pretty magical. She puts a lot of power and energy into that ball every time. It definitely shows why she’s West Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year.”
Excellent team serving and Stokes’ power pushed Mintonette past Coast convincingly in straight sets, 25-17, 25-17, in 18 Elite action at the Triple Crown NIT. After dropping its first match of the tournament, Mintonette recorded back-to-back victories.
“I think it was energy,” said Boyle. “Our team relies on it.”
Mintonette certainly brought the energy, using a 7-1 run to win the first set in convincing fashion. This came after both teams were even almost the entire time, with Coast cutting the lead to as little as 18-16 before Mintonette finished the job.
“First set, I felt like we did a decent job controlling tempo on our side of the net,” Mahlerwien said. “What we did on our side really kind of put them out of system and out of sorts. The pressure from our serving, when we’re in control, it’s really good.”
Despite it not immediately showing on the scoreboard, Mintonette appeared in control for most of the second set. As Mahlerwien alluded to, his club was applying tons of pressure. Everyone was doing their part, and Stokes was becoming a nightmare to try to defend at the net.
“I guess because I’m really short, I just have to swing as hard as I can,” said the University of Michigan commit. “It’s just really what I do.”
Stokes and the serving of Scottee Johnson fueled another devastating run. Mintonette, leading 14-13, rattled off the next six points in a row, forcing multiple Coast timeouts.
“Scottee went on that run, our setter,” Mahlerwien said. “She’s got a mean float serve.”
Brown credited her teammates for their ability to stay focused on the current point. That ability allowed Mintonette to seize the momentum after a talented Coast squad continued to knock on the door.
“I’m confident in my teammates, too,” she said. “Whenever that happens, I’m just like, move on to the next one. You can’t dwell on past points.”
Mintonette has looked impressive all tournament, despite dropping the first match to Texas Advantage, one of the top teams in the field. Mahlerwien said the team moved past the loss quickly, just as it moves past a lost point quickly on the court as well.
“We occasionally have a slow start. Unfortunately our slow start was against the best team here,” he said. “We do a good job of kind of forgetting about the situation. We don’t really let things dwell and get in our heads, and we do a good job of always moving on to the next point.”