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San Diego squeezes out a win over the Orlando Valkyries

Updated: May 5

Ronika Stone, a middle blocker for San Diego, swings over two Orlando blockers. (Courtesy of Soleil Dam)

On Military Appreciation Night, the San Diego Mojo pushed past the Orlando Valkyries in a tight 5-set game. April 29 was Orlando and San Diego’s third matchup of the season, and the Mojo are currently winning the season series 2-1. 

“Especially on Military Night, no better way to honor them than to go into battle and get them a win,” said Mojo Head Coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park. 

San Diego started Monday’s game off on a high note with a service ace. Due to dominance by Opposite Hitter Willow Johnson and a couple Valkyries touching the net, the Mojo came away with a first set win. 

Orlando responded in the second set with a strong offensive game plan. They held a tight lead throughout the set with almost all of their points coming from attacks. The Valkyries pulled away by scoring the set’s final six out of seven points.

The third and fourth set followed the pattern of the first and second set. San Diego dominated Orlando in an assertive 25-15 third set win. The Valkyries grabbed a commanding victory of their own, winning the fourth set 25-18.

Courtesy of Soleil Dam

Momentum was a recurring theme throughout the matchup. Both teams dominated when the game’s momentum was in their favor.

“I always say let’s get the momentum going right now and bring it into the fifth,” said Lindsey Vander Weide, an outside hitter for the Mojo. “Having momentum is huge, especially against teams like Orlando.” 

Thanks to an electric crowd in Viejas Arena, San Diego was able to take the momentum back and end the game on a high note. The Mojo’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, with four players finishing with multiple kills in the fifth set alone. 

“I think what’s really exciting about our team specifically is that we have such depth on our bench,” said August Raskie, a setter for San Diego. “I think throwing in a different setter gives different looks to create different scoring options.”

The fan atmosphere in San Diego has become a huge factor of the Mojo’s success in home games. Cities like Omaha, Nebraska are known for their passionate volleyball fans, and the Mojo look to emulate the same mentality into their San Diego fanbase. 

“This is for sure the loudest it has ever been,” Vander Weide said. “Omaha is so good at home because their crowd is crazy, but even when our crowd is smaller, they’re loud and it makes such a big difference.”

The Mojo will play their next two games in Michigan as they visit the Grand Rapids Rise, and return to San Diego for the final home game against the Columbus Fury. The Valkyries will play their next game on May 1 against the Vegas Thrill and look to close out the regular season on May 11. 

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