A lively gym made for an ideal setting for a crucial 5A District 5-6 volleyball match Tuesday at Thunder Ridge.
Defending 5A District 5-6 champion and 5A state champion Madison prevailed 25-13, 25-19, 25-21 over Thunder Ridge, which began conference play with the match. The Bobcats (14-10, 2-0 5A District 5-6) came from behind to win the third set and complete the sweep.
Neither team was short of energy and enthusiasm on the court, something Madison coach Meranda Maestas said the Bobcats chose to embrace.
"I think every time we've come to Thunder and Hillcrest, the student section has been really loud," Maestas said. "I think that intimidated us a bit before in the past. We decided to thrive off it tonight."
Getting to experience the lively atmosphere and play for the first time this season for the Bobcats was Madison junior Charity Wilson, who tore her ACL in March. Wilson said bringing plenty of energy was a point of emphasis for the Bobcats.
"We just talked about getting excited, not worrying about what the other team was doing and playing together as a team," Wilson said. "Whenever someone got a good hit, we got really excited."
The Bobcats had plenty to cheer about during the first set, which they began with three unanswered points en route to extending their lead to 22-10 later. Thunder Ridge's blocking allowed the Titans to come within 22-13 before the Bobcats ended the set with the final three points.
The intensity picked up on the court as did the crowd noise for the next two sets. Two lead changes occurred early in the second set, which Madison led 11-6 early. Thunder Ridge (16-4, 0-1 5A District 5-6) came within four points multiple times and denied Madison the final point twice before the Bobcats took the set 25-19.
The Titans led set three by margins of 10-7 and 12-9 early, getting big contributions from Austyn Landon, Avery Turnage and Paige Clark. Madison tied the set four times before taking a 13-12 lead. Thunder Ridge had five of the last eight points and again denied Madison the final point twice before the Bobcats took the set 25-21 off a kill from freshman Mariah Wilson, Charity's younger sister.
"She's awesome," the older Wilson said with a smile.
Sidney Parker had 11 kills, Baylee Peterson had three aces, Maddi Wilcox had five blocks, Charity Wilson passed at a 2.7 rate (out of 3) while libero Lexi Weaver passed at a 2.3 rate for Madison, which hosts Upper Valley rival Rigby on Tuesday.
Maestas said Thunder Ridge's hitting has gotten stronger since their inaugural season a year ago, and the Bobcats knew they had minimize errors.
"They're gonna keep getting better over the next couple of weeks and I'm sure we'll see them at districts and state," Maestas said. "We just knew we had to serve tough."
Tuesday was Thunder Ridge's fourth loss of the season, which has included four-set wins over defending 4A state runner-up Bonneville and 3A state runner-up Sugar-Salem.
"They came guns a blazing and we never responded," Thunder Ridge head coach Keisha Fisher said. "As coaches, we've gotta do a better job of coaching our kids to play through tight situations."
Fisher attributed Thunder Ridge's impressive start this season to a dedicated offseason grind. The Titans play Thursday at Rigby.
"I feel like we've been working hard in the gym," Fisher said. "In the summer, the girls were in here four days a week lifting weights and working to get faster and stronger."