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San Diego Mojo Conquer the Columbus Fury in 4 sets

Lindsey Vander Weide, a San Diego outside hitter, tips the ball over two Columbus blockers. (Courtesy of Soleil Dam)

In their first matchup of the season, the San Diego Mojo grabbed a dominant 3-1 victory over the Columbus Fury. Both teams’ previous matches were against the second-place Omaha Supernovas. The Mojo beat the Supernovas on April 2, but the Fury dropped to the Supernovas on April 4.

San Diego channeled their winning vibes into Sunday’s game. They started off strong with a kill on the opening point and continued to hold a tight lead throughout the first set. Columbus kept the set competitive and ended up pulling away at the end of the set, winning 25-23. 

The second set was similar to the first, as both teams went back and forth. However, the Mojo were able to push ahead towards the backend of the set and win by six points. Temi Thomas-Ailara, a San Diego outside hitter, set the tone for the rest of the game.

“Being on top of it brings the team with me and then everyone can find their rhythm…and I think that was helpful, especially later in the match,” Thomas-Ailara said. 

She ended the match with a total of 28 points and 27 kills, which is a franchise record. Outside of Thomas-Ailara, the Mojo had four other players scoring in double figures. Hitter Valeria Papa scored 13 points, Outside Hitter Kendra Dahlke scored 12 points, and Middle Blocker Ronika Stone scored 10 points.

Courtesy of Soleil Dam

Despite San Diego’s high-powered offense, Columbus kept it close in the third and fourth sets. The Mojo won both of the final sets by less than four points, but their confidence in clutch moments is what ultimately led them to the win. 

“We are finally finding a lot of confidence and we are starting to fight for real,” Papa said. “When we are close to the end, everybody knows that we can [take] the victory.”

Mojo Head Coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park also cited the fans as another reason for San Diego’s ability to pull through in the clutch. 

“We are a team that thrives on energy and momentum,” Haneef-Park said. “When we were down, I could hear the crowd just kind of stepping up.”

The Mojo will get to play in front of their home fanbase one more time on this current homestand. They will face the top-ranked Atlanta Vibe for the final time this season on April 10. 

“I feel that this is a different team that [the Vibe hasn’t] seen,” Haneef-Park said. “I think Omaha [and] Columbus [were] a great test for us.”

San Diego and Columbus look forward to their next matchup. They will have a rematch at Nationwide Arena on April 12. 

Edited by: Breanna Ebisch

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