What a difference a week can make in sports.
One week, a team might look like a legitimate contender. Naturally, something unforeseen happens to challenge the notion.
Mojave’s girls volleyball team found that out the hard way last week when it suffered a major setback to earning the first playoff berth in school history, when star player Alexis Fetui tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the Rattlers’ second league match of the season.
“Adversity is just something we’re going to have to learn to deal with,” second-year coach Erik Davis said. “I don’t think there’s any great stories that have emerged without something like this. Obviously our hope is to make a great story. … To be able to make playoffs for this team is definitely a goal that we’ve had in mind all year long. And it’s a goal that we feel we still can attain.”
Mojave never has made the playoffs in girls volleyball since the school opened in 1996. After losing their first three matches this season, the Rattlers pulled off a nine-game winning streak and quickly turned into one of the biggest surprises of the season. They were on pace to secure one of the four Division I-A Sunset playoff spots.
But on Sept. 16, Fetui went down, resulting in a complete shake-up of the team’s psyche. Fetui, who already recovered from a right knee replacement last year, went down in a five-set loss to Cheyenne.
“The game that she got injured was really hard on us,” senior libero Sierra Cummings said. “When we saw her get hurt, it completely shut us all down. It literally looked like everyone gave up. That was such a hard thing to go through, but right now we’re trying to move past that and play the best we can.”
The bounce back hasn’t exactly been easy on the Rattlers (9-6, 1-3), who have lost three league matches in a row following the injury. Two of their three losses have been five-set heartbreakers.
“She did win a lot of our points, but as a team, we can’t just rely on one person to do everything for us,” Cummings said. “I think we still can make playoffs and do the things we want to.”
Cummings said she’s taken more of a leadership role to counter the loss.
“It’s definitely put a lot more on me because Lex was our speaking captain,” she said. “Now that she’s gone, I have to step my game up and have the girls look up to me like they did her.”
In the meantime, Davis plans on getting his team back on track so it can reach its initial goal of the playoffs. With 10 league matches to go, he hopes the turnaround happens soon. He believes his girls can still make history.
“It has got to happen real quick,” he said. “Our goal right now is to not try to force it. We’re going to try to make it happen naturally. We’re never going to be what we were with Alexis. It’s got to be a new chapter, and we’ve got to kind of emerge as a new team. We have a lot more games. We just have to find our identity again and find a different way to win.
Added Cummings: “The playoffs would mean so much to us. It’s such a great accomplishment, and we know that Coach Davis can take us to the next level.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.