by Matt Antonic
Two victories in successive sets vaulted Texas Advantage 16 Elite over Club Sunshine on Saturday, sets with two distinctly different levels of competitiveness.
If a spectator only caught the first set, a 25-18 victory that saw TAV race out to a 13-3 lead, they might assume the entire match was one-sided.
However, Sunshine, buoyed by a spirited cheering section, had no intention of going so quietly. Sunshine fought tooth and nail in the second set, even being within a point of victory, but was simply out-executed at the end by TAV to fall in straight sets (25-18, 26-24) at the TC NIT in Kansas City.
There was no question that both teams wanted it. There was also no question about which team was more fundamentally sound. TAV stayed in its system from the get go and was particularly dominant in the first set, leading by double digits for a majority of the time. Sunshine made a late push, spurred on by remarkable energy between team and fans, but it was too little too late.
“It starts in the training gym,” TAV coach Carlos Ramos said. “We go day in and day out. We work hard and we go after balls.”
The strong and relentless work ethic was visible during the first set, but a nail-biting second set brought out a hint of ruthlessness in Ramos’ squad. TAV was successfully able to force Sunshine into mistakes. Ramos attributed the success to his players being able to thrive in chaos.
“We do a lot of drills of chaotic situations, and it translates to those moments. The resilience those girls had to win the game was beautiful,” he said.
Ramos used the word resilience twice, and for good reason. The Sunshine had just scored back-to-back points to take a 24-22 lead, putting the set on ice. It was time to apply training from chaotic situations in practice to the game. TAV didn’t flinch. Four consecutive points later and TAV had a victory, winning the set 26-24 allowing it to remain atop Power Pool B at 16 Elite with three wins and zero losses.
Ramos said the team knew the options Sunshine was going to deploy coming out of the timeout down 24-22. After talking to his team, it was all up to his players to successfully execute a comeback, and execute the did.
“We didn’t used to be able to do that,” TAV's Kyndal Stowers said on the comeback win. “Anytime we were down, we were down the whole game. The fact that we were down against a good team and came back was awesome.”
There was a certain sense of maturity and composure one could sense from TAV. The noise of the Kansas City Convention Center and the moment itself did not seem cause for great concern.
“We didn’t freak out,” Stowers said. “We kept our composure and played as hard as we could.”