Left to right: Canyon del Oro High School volleyball players Katie Call, Abby Whatton and Talyna Tisdale.

A crescendo of cheers rained down in the fourth set of Thursday’s volleyball match between Canyon del Oro and Catalina Foothills. 

The cheers correlated with the Dorados’ march towards victory, with the home side taking the match in four sets, 25-23, 25-13, 16-25 and 25-17. 

The team’s victory was a sign of progress for Dorados coach Michael Owens, who has led CDO to a 6-3 record this season. 

Owens praised his players ability to overcome the Falcons overwhelming height and athleticism at the net, returning serve throughout the night. 

“Playing against Catalina Foothills, they’re just so good. I mean, they’re really physical,” Owens said. “They have size and if you allow them to be in their system and have easy balls, then they’re going to feast on you.”

Owens said his team’s success on Thursday stemmed from their ability to be aggressive, making few errors and forcing the Falcons to bring their best effort, which they were unable to do.

“We had to be the aggressor in every situation and take errors when they came, but then allow them to hopefully start their offense a little further off the net than they would normally like to do,” Owens said. “That's kind what we do.”

The theme of the night for the CDO players, like junior setter Katie Call, was the team’s ability to thwart the Falcons’ attack. 

The key to victory, according to Call, was the team’s ability to win the match’s first set, after trailing at multiple points during the stanza. 

“I really just think it shows that no matter who we're playing or how far we get behind, our team is always there right behind our backs to support us and lift each other up and even if we made a mistake,” Call said. “We knew that we had to battle back and fix it and then move on, and we did.” 

Senior outside hitter Abby Whatton referenced the Dorados’ four-set loss to the Falcons on Sept. 19 as a main motivator on Thursday night. 

Whatton expressed a mixture of excitement and relief in recapping the team’s victory, after getting knocked down by the Falcons in their previous contest. 

“I feel like we kind of came in a little bit not ready,” Whatton said of the team’s previous match. “And this time I feel like we were completely ready and a hundred times more ready to win.”

On the other side of the court, Catalina Foothills coach Nic Thiltges shared his thoughts on what went wrong for the Falcons. 

Thiltges, who’s coached the Falcons to a 9-5 record this season, acknowledged that his players failed to play up to their maximum potential on Thursday. 

“I think that we're a team that very much needs to believe in ourselves to play to our top end,” Thiltges said. And I think that when we started to struggle a little bit and have some bad moments and when CDO did a good job of putting pressure on us, rather than kind of trusting what we do and falling back onto it, I think we started trying to play differently and that hurt us a lot.” 

Thiltges is confident his team, which returns to the court to play Sahuaro at home on Wednesday, Oct. 2, will recover nicely. 

The key to said recovery is for the Falcons to regain their confidence and on-court composure, Thiltges said. 

“I mean, we're big and we're physical and so when we believe in doing what we're doing, then we beat teams,” Thiltges said. “And when we come out and let other teams dictate how we play, when we come out we and don't kind of just do what we do, that's when we struggle, when we have a hard time. But when we play the game that we want to play, I don't think there's a team in Tucson that's big enough to play with us.” 

Around the region

Elsewhere in northwest Tucson, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks won their lone match of the week over Rincon/University in straight sets on Wednesday, Sept. 25, moving to 9-5 for the year. 

The Marana Tigers swept their two matches of the week, beating Pueblo and Nogales to move to 7-1 for the season. 

The Mountain View Lions were swept by Cienega in their lone match of the week, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, falling to 6-7 for the season. 

The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions split their two matches, beating Walden Grove in four sets, before falling to Safford in five sets to move to 6-7 for the year.

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