LATHROP — After losing the first set to visiting Mountain House on Thursday night, Lathrop fell behind 4-1 in the second set before finishing it on a 21-6 run highlighted by Hailey Hunter’s 10-point service run to close it out.
Lathrop went on to earn a 23-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-21 Western Athletic Conference win to keep the Spartans alone in first place with a two-match lead.
Hunter finished with 30 digs and two aces.
“I was just thinking I was going to get the next serve down because that’s what we needed,” Hunter said. “That was our goal. But it was a team effort. Everyone in that back row had to play defense before we got that next serve in.
“On defense, I kind of had an idea of where their outside hitter was hitting, so I was focusing on the hard angle. That has been a goal of mine.”
Jahsita Fa’ali’i dominated the front and, along with Hunter, the back line for Lathrop (6-0 WAC, 9-2 overall), posting a double-double with 15 kills and 19 digs along with a pair of blocks.
“We had to rebound on defense after that first set,” Fa’ali’i said. “And then our offense got going.”
While the second set was squarely in the Spartans’ wheelhouse, the Mustangs (4-2, 7-5) kept the rest of the night close with six ties in the first set, 10 ties in the third and although there were just two ties in the fourth set, there was some drama off the court to make the fourth set more interesting that it needed to be.
With Lathrop leading 22-18, the Mountain House bench raucously protested the score, and after much debate the Mustangs were somehow awarded another point to make the score 22-19. Mountain House closed to within 22-21, but a back-row kill from Hunter and an ace from Desiree Ambatali helped close out the night with a 25-21 win.
“As a coach, you have to be able to control what you are able to control,” Spartans coach Heather Anderson said. “And try to move past it.
“It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a tight match like that but in the moment my goal is to refocus my players to control what we can control and not worry about the other stuff.”
Lathrop had not lost a set in league until Thursday.
“I think it was good we got tested tonight,” Anderson said. “That is the first set we have lost in league and it proved to ourselves that more than anything that we were able to respond from a challenge.
“We didn’t play really well that first set. We came out a little flat and then we responded with that second set when we lit up the scoreboard because we were frustrated with our performance earlier. It was good that we were challenged because that is going to get us more playoff-ready than just sweeping everyone.”
Jennifer Santillan had 38 assists and two aces for the Spartans. Krystle Sakay added 16 digs, seven kills and three aces and Sydney Hanks had nine kills and four blocks, with five of those nine kills coming in the pivotal fourth set.
Lathrop 2, Mountain House 1
After splitting two close sets 26-24, 24-26, the Spartans pulled away in the third 15-9
Lylliana Avila had 14 kills for Lathrop, Gowdina Ogbeide 16 digs, Camila De La Garza 28 assists and Isabella Gomez six kills.
Lathrop 2, Mountain House 0
Alava Olaleye tallied seven kills and nine digs for the Spartans in a 25-10, 26-24 sweep.
Lathrop’s Alejandra Vasquez added 11 assists and Azul Maldanado had three kills.