Every point is a game-winner in Serina Nickle’s mind.
After each Coronado score, Nickle screams at the top of her lungs and excitedly bounces into a bouquet of her delighted teammates.
Thursday, she missed a game-winning spike, but lifted her arms in joyful bliss when an unforced error clinched a four-set doozy 25-8, 17-25, 29-27, 25-21 over Mesa Ridge.
“I’ve always been taught to play every point like it’s game point,” said Nickle, known to her teammates as “Goggles” because of her tinted glasses she wears during every match. “And now being a senior, I’m just trying to absorb everything and not take anything for granted.”
The third set at Coronado went back-and-forth, the teams collaged into an even, floor-squeaking, superman-diving set that ended on a bad note for Mesa Ridge.
“It could have gone either way,” Mesa Ridge coach Francis Calar said. “Both teams never stopped battling.”
The Grizzlies faulted into the net on a potential game-clinching point and then double hit on the set-decider, as seniors Nickle and Erica Lambert led the Cougars’ determined offense.
Actually, determined might only scratch the surface.
Late in the set, three diving Coronado players — Nickle, Lambert and Alexia Morey — kept the ball alive on the same possession to spark the set’s 42-minute win. And when Morey’s one-handed tap over the net dropped between two Grizzlies, the host crowd shook the bleachers nearly as much as Nickle did.
That may have well been the tipping point.
“We played as a team,” Nickle said, “we played with heart.”
The Cougars (10-2, 4-0 4A Metro) went on to win the fourth set on a long serve.
The Grizzlies (10-3, 3-1) have lost to Coronado twice — their only 4A losses of the season.
“Against them we need to take those scoring opportunities and make good on them,” Calar said. “Just be consistent.”
Coronado scored 15 of the last 17 points to grab the first set convincingly (25-8). But then, Mesa Ridge controlled most of the second set and held on through a mini-comeback attempt from the Cougars (25-17).
After the postgame handshake, Coronado coach Don Lash said he knew the third set could have gone either way. But then, winning isn’t his top priority.
Success is what matters to him.
“We’re not allowed to talk about winning because you can’t control that,” Lash said. “I learned from John Wooden that ‘success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.’”