September 28, 2005 - With a thunderous spike of a ball off the fist of Jenny Meyer, it was finally all over and what little was left of nervously chewed fingernails could be spared.
The volleyball match between Mountain View and Marana high schools took roughly an hour out of the day, the breath out of the crowd in the stuffed Mountain View gym, and every last dollop of energy out of the players who engaged each other in the battle for Marana.
When the dust settled and the deafening roar of screaming teenagers and their parents stopped reverberating off the walls of Mountain View's old gym, the Mountain Lions were winners in three grueling games.
"It's always a great match when Marana and Mountain View get together," said Marana head coach Cindy Meekin, magnanimous in defeat.
The Marana battle was just one among 56 in the two-day war that was the first annual Mountain View High School Volleyball Invitational. Fourteen teams from around Arizona descended upon Mountain View on Sept. 23 and 24 in the first of what promises to be at least a four-round bout over the next two years.
In the third game, with Mountain View one point away from the win and up by six points, Marana led a charge behind Katie Murphy who, with her serving skills, helped pull the Tigers within one point at 14-13. Ironically, Murphy was almost pulled from earlier games for struggling to get her serves in, Meekin said.
Clinging to the lead, in stepped Meyer, a senior whose errant shot on the previous play made it a one-point game, to seal the quarterfinal win with the spike.
After beating Marana, 16-25, 25-15, 15-13, the Mountain Lions had no chance to revel in the win. It was immediately on to the main gym and a semi-final match with Scottsdale Notre Dame Preparatory High School.
Despite the battle of the ages between the cross-town rivals, the first annual title of the Mountain View invitational wouldn't stay in Marana, Tucson or even in Pima County for that matter. Instead, it headed north on I-10 with Notre Dame to Scottsdale in a jubilant van ripe with the odor of five straight games and sweet victory.
The Mountain Lions won the first game against the Saints, lost the second and had a valiant comeback in the third go for naught as Notre Dame held on for the win, 26-24,19-25,12-15.
After quelling the Mountain Lions, Notre Dame went on to defeat Catalina High School in the finals.
"Some of the girls were crying after the game," Mountain View head coach Rick Ellis said about the Notre Dame match up. "I've never seen them cry before."
The emotion left on the court not only made for intense point-by-agonizing-point volleyball but may have served as a declaration that the Mountain View girls volleyball program has pulled itself up from the bottom of the Class 5A to become a team that can potentially cause some damage come state tournament time.
"I see us getting better every game," said Ellis, who said he's been waiting a long time to see his team show the kind of emotion and fortitude it did against Marana and Notre Dame.
With seven wins in its own tourney, Mountain View upped its season total from 14 to 21 wins against just six losses. Since Ellis and assistant Lori Pack took over the program two years ago, Mountain View has seen its win total skyrocket from just two wins in 2003.
"Our team has come a long ways," said a physically drained Meyer after the consolation game against Phoenix Christian High School.
Even though it will lose seniors Breanna Sherrow, Meghan Detty, Shelly Larimore, Jenae Hagel, Stacia Moore and Meyer to graduation, Mountain View looks to be even stronger next year with a slew of experienced younger players returning coupled with transplants from the undefeated junior varsity program (10-0 through Sept. 25).
Ellis and the Mountain Lions will get their chance to avenge themselves in their own tournament next year. Any kinks from this year will be smoothed out for the spring, when Mountain View will also play host to the identical tourney in the boys program.