The Madison volleyball team has been resilient since last season when the injury bug wreaked havoc on the Bobcats team.
This year Madison is at nearly full strength and proved it with an impressive 3-1 win over Thunder Ridge on Tuesday night.
Madison improved to 7-0, 2-0 in conference, with a 25-10, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21 win. The Bobcats kept pace with unbeaten Highland atop the 5A District 5-6 standings.
The health of the team has been a bright spot for coach Meranda Maestas, who said she nearly had tears in her eyes when the team started the season with a complete roster and looked ready to compete despite losing a couple of key players and fielding a relatively young team.
Maddi Wilcox, a junior wearing a conspicuous knee brace from an ACL injury last season, was the epitome of the Bobcats’ drive on Tuesday, heating up over the final two sets to finish with a team-high 15 kills. Fellow junior Mariah Wilson added 12 kills.
Maestas noted the match had a “weird energy” because the Bobcats jumped out to a 19-5 lead in the first set, but the Titans (6-3, 1-2) bounced back to take the second set, handing Madison its first set loss of the season.
The match started about two hours late due to the freshman and junior varsity games running long, but after the Titans tied it up at 1-1, the competitive nature of the teams started to heat up.
The Bobcats and the Titans each advanced to the state tournament a year ago, but each had a new look entering 2021. For the Titans, that meant replacing eight seniors, four of whom are now playing in college.
Thunder Ridge coach Keisha Fisher said prior to the season that this year’s squad is a different team from a year ago, but expectations are still high.
That meant Tuesday’s matchup was a good look at two teams trying to make another run at the state tournament.
“The goal is to get better,” said Maestas.
Kendel Hone had 15 kills and 11 digs for the Titans. Nekysa Wright added nine kills and Brie Arfmann recorded 27 assists and 14 digs.
Thunder Ridge plays at Rigby on Tuesday. Madison hosts Rigby on Thursday.