By ANGEL CANEZ
A lot was on the line Nov. 3 for the Pima Community College Volleyball team.
The Aztecs had their season and a trip to Nationals in West Virginia in their grasp. They were only a win away, but their season’s biggest foe stood in their path.
The Aztecs found themselves in a rematch with the tournament’s opening match against South Mountain Community College. The Cougars came out and showed why they were the No. 1 seed, beating the Aztecs in three straight sets 25-22, 25-16, 25-19. That effectively put an end to the Aztecs’ season, who finished the season 16-15.
“I am very happy and excited for our players to end the season they way we did this year,” said coach Dan Bithell. “We absolutely played our best volleyball in the Region Tournament, and that was one of our big goals all season. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on some good momentum on Friday and meet the challenge of a terrific South Mountain team in the final.
“The amount of adversity we faced this season was more than I have ever experienced as a head coach, and I am proud of our team for their perseverance and resilience throughout the season.”
With their season on the line, the Aztecs put together an impressive day as they needed to win twice in one day to advance to the finals. The Aztecs did just that, beating Mesa Community College in four sets and putting an end to their season 26-24, 25-19, 18-25, 25-20 and advancing to the second match of the day.
The momentum carried on as the Aztecs beat the Glendale Community College Gauchos for the first time this year after losing the previous two meetings. This was the only meet that mattered as the team put a halt on the Gauchos’ season in four sets (25-18, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20) and pulling off the upset.
The Aztecs didn’t show up in the first round of the NJCAA Region I, Division II playoffs on Nov. 1 in Phoenix. They played the No. 1 seed and lost to South Mountain Community College in straight sets 25-15, 25-12, 25-20.
Some miscues led to the sweep by the Cougars as Pima led in two of the three sets by 1 point. A few runs by the Cougars doomed the Aztecs in the first set, and the third set saw nine ties before South Mountain scored the final 4 points to lock up the first win of the tournament. Pima went on to the losers bracket in this double-elimination tournament.
“I feel the most exciting thing is the possibility of a large number of freshmen to return for us next year,” Bithell said. “It is your sophomores that carry the team in the toughest times, and it will be great to have a lot of them that will have some great experience. We have a lot of work to do.”