By Kyle Koso
It’s a little crazy to ever question the Munciana Samurai 18’s, even when it seems like they will run out of time before finding an answer.
With a game and a half in the books Monday at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, Munciana was down 0-1 and staring at a five-point deficit against Legacy in the title match of the 18 Elite, so calling the situation bleak might have actually been charitable. But the Samurai (who won the 18’s here a year ago) first pulled even, then ahead, then used all their numerous skills and resources to win Game 3, posting a 18-25, 26-24, 15-13 victory at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
After falling behind 16-11 in Game 2, Munciana got a couple aces from Megan Miller (who will play at Nebraska next year), kills from Jonni Parker (Penn State) and Bonnie Bostic (Yale, 2019) and a few timely mistakes by Legacy to take a 19-18 lead. At 23-all, the match’s longest point played out, ending with a Parker kill, and two more kills from her secured the game and the roots of an amazing comeback.
In Game 3, Munciana never allowed itself to get in serious trouble again. A bizarre-looking karate-chop shot from Bostic flipped over the net and to the ground for game point, and an error by Legacy finished the drama.
“It’s the passion that we all have. We are a team full of winners, and we hate to lose,” said Alyiah Wells, whose offensive prowess played a huge role in keeping Munciana in touch. “We owed it to ourselves after winning the second game that we should push to the end. We didn’t put enough service pressure on them early, and they could play in system a lot. It’s a lot easier to set in system, and it’s harder for the defense to read.”
Munciana will practice coming back from deficits as large as 15 points, but to see them pull off this type of comeback in a national-scale championship is a different thing altogether. Legacy certainly made it interesting, featuring a fleet of tenacious and skilled hitters, as well as a rock-wall defense.
“We were able to flip the switch and began to bring the energy we didn’t start with in that second set,” said Parker, who consistently provides the set, kill, block or dig her team needs at a given moment. “We got on a run, and that gave us the momentum we needed. We had to make adjustments and began to get some (good play) under our belt. We are fighting to get to June, our end goal, and this type of competition is definitely good for that.”
Munciana coach Mike Lingenfelter simply thought the refuse-to-lose mindset of his roster, baked into the team from countless hours of preparation, made the difference.
“We finally got a run, we needed three together I told them … that one part of the second game was the only time we had a run, and we needed that,” he said. “I told them this in one of the huddles -- every kid on this team has won a national championship except for one, and that kid has two state championships. That DNA kicks in at some point, and it’s part of the legacy we’ve built.
“This event is second to none. I looked at all the other President’s Day tournaments going on, and kudos to them all … we host one ourselves … but there’s no comparison to this event in regards to competition, event management, hospitality. To win this is a big deal because 90 percent of the big-time teams are in this thing. It’s a special win.”