Shadow Ridge middle hitter Collin Johnson doesn’t have much varsity experience, so he focuses on just doing what his coach tells him to do.
The strategy worked out fine Thursday.
Johnson posted 10 blocks and four kills as the Mustangs earned a 25-14, 25-15, 25-17 victory at Cimarron-Memorial.
“I was just doing what Coach (Christian) Augustin told me to do,” Johnson said. “We realized they were hitting cross a lot, so we camped out on that.”
Justin Kent added six kills, and Jalen Makaiwi dished out 13 assists as the Mustangs (4-2, 2-0 Northwest League) won their second straight road league match.
“With a younger team, the confidence is key,” Augustin said. “You don’t want them to be deflated early with tough losses in league.
“To be able to pick up two tough games, against Arbor View and Cimarron — to be able to get those wins is key moving into next week (against Palo Verde and Centennial).”
Johnson had two kills and a block as Shadow Ridge rattled off runs of 7-3 and 6-2 to cruise to a first-game advantage that it never relinquished against the Spartans (3-2, 1-1).
The junior converted outside hitter generously lists himself as “5 feet, 11 5/8 inches,” but posted back-to-back blocks in the second game to put his team up 11-4.
The defensive effort then sparked a string of six consecutive points that led to a win in the second game.
“Right now, it’s all about learning how everyone plays together,” Johnson said of the Mustangs, who returned only one starter from last year’s squad. “I think we’re starting to come together a lot more, and that’s what helped us out tonight.”
In the third game, Johnson scored consecutive points on a kill and a block to put the Mustangs up 13-8 and overcome an 8-3 rally led by Cimarron’s Tanner Maxwell, who finished with seven kills, two blocks and five assists.
Augustin faced a tough task of rebuilding the defending state champion Mustangs through an arduous nonleague schedule, which included matches against defending Sunrise Region champion Las Vegas High and regular Southeast League contenders Silverado and Green Valley.
“I strongly believe that to be able to be the best, you have to compete against the best,” the eighth-year head coach said. “They have to go through the fire and deal with the ups and downs.
“If we are going to be able to be competitive at all, we have to understand what it takes to be at the highest level.”
Braydon Egbert added five kills for the Spartans, and teammate Taylor Larsen distributed 10 assists.