Friday, May 24, 2024

Mojo Victorious in Front of Record-Setting Crowd – San Diego Women’s Pro Volleyball (Updated)

Updated April 11, 2024 with results of the match versus Atlanta Vibe, quote from the coach, and upcoming matches.

The San Diego Mojo Professional Women’s Volleyball team has won three of its last four matches in dominant fashion, this time in four sets against the Columbus Fury late afternoon on Sunday, 23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-23. In the space of one week, the Mojo has moved from seventh to sixth and now fifth place in overall regular-season standings. At the end of the season, the top four teams make it to the playoffs where a $1 million grand prize is at stake. Now halfway through their season, making the playoffs, and for good measure, winning it all, is well within reach.

With two consecutive home wins, their home record stands at 4-3. The enthusiastic announced crowd of 8,938 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena shattered the Mojo’s previous attendance record of 6,100 from Opening Day on February 1. “They are the seventh man, eighth man for a crowd this size,” said head coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park. “We are a team that thrives on energy and momentum. When we are down, I can hear the crowd, ‘We are Mojo! Let’s go Mojo!'”

Match Play

The Mojo took a commanding lead in set 1 and went up 19-15 off of strong attacks by Temi Thomas-Ailara. The Fury responded with a 5-0 run to go up, 20-19. The teams were tied at 20, 21, 22, and 23. Fury Middle Blocker Asjia O’Neal had two kills to earn the final points and take the set, 25-23. The Fury won the final 10 of 16 points with a balanced attack by Megan Courtney Lush, Reagan Cooper, Samantha Drechsel and O’Neal. Thomas-Ailara led the Mojo with 9 kills.

Temi Thomas-Ailara has one of her record-setting 27 kills on the night. Photo Micah Cunningham

The Mojo led the entire second set after a 1-1 tie and handily won it, 25-19. Thomas-Ailara and Valeria Papa had 10 and 5 kills respectively, off of great assists by setter Nootsara Tomkom.

The third set featured both a balanced attack and great defense. Led by Kendra Dahlke and Thomas-Ailara with six and four kills respectively, Papa, Ronika Stone, and Hannah Tapp each contributed one or more. Tapp also added two of the team’s four blocks. Although there were no aces, there were also no service errors, making this set one of the most complete for the Mojo.

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Runs by both teams characterized the fourth set. The Mojo went down by four to start the set 7-3, and they were either losing or tied through 11-all. At 15-15, the scoring went like this: Mojo 4-0 run, Fury 5-0 run, and Mojo 5-1 run to take a 24-21 lead for match point. With fans on their feet in support, the Mojo made two attack errors and the Fury closed the gap to 24-23. Haneef-Park called time out. Out of the time out, Thomas-Ailara got the kill for a dramatic end to the fourth set, and the match.

Mojo Versus Atlanta Vibe

The Mojo played their last game of this home stand against league-leader Atlanta Vibe, Wednesday, April 10 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. The Mojo lost in three sets, 25-17, 25-19, 25-13. This Mojo-Vibe match-up was their fourth and final contest of the regular season.

Scheduling and Next Up

As reported previously, the timing of league play is unbalanced. For example, the Vibe has already played 18 of 24 matches whereas the Mojo has only played about half, at 13. The top four teams make it to the playoffs. The Mojo are a half game out of the all-important fourth place currently held by the Grand Rapids Rise. The Mojo are 2-0 versus the Rise, so the Mojo would win a tiebreaker at this point through the season. There is a lot of volleyball to play, but the trajectory is promising for the Mojo.

“We’re in it, we’re still in it,” said Haneef-Park. “We moved from the bottom to fifth and we’re half a game away from being in fourth place and being in the playoffs. If that doesn’t inspire you, then I don’t know what does.”

Next, the Mojo play three away matches: April 12 versus the Fury; April 14 versus the Orlando Valyries; and April 20 versus the Omaha Supernovas. Fans can watch for free on YouTube. See the schedule for the link to each game.

The team will be back at SDSU’s Viejas Arena for a home stand April 23 (Supernovas), 26 (Vegas Thrill), and 29 (Valkyries). All games begin at 7 p.m. Get your tickets today!

Head coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park and Libero Shara Venegas celebrate. Photo Micah Cunningham

Notable from April 7 Game

  • Thomas-Alaira recorded a team record 27 kills. She also has one of the sport’s most powerful serves, eliciting oohs and aahs from the crowd that suggest her serve alone is worth the price of admission.
  • The crowd was enthusiastic not only about the volleyball, but also the Mojo Karaoke to Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me.
  • Knowing their audience, ads for, clothing for tall women, appeared during the game.
  • The Fury have now lost four in a row and seven of its last eight.
Whether on the court or the sideline, the Mojo players are all in, cheering for their teammates. Photo Micah Cunningham

Lisa Lamb
Lisa Lamb
Lisa’s passion for sports journalism stems from her experiences playing high school sports and reading great sports journalists, especially those who write about her favorite basketball team, the San Diego State Aztecs. As a professor of mathematics education, she enjoys analyzing data to highlight the statistics that help bring the story to life. Lisa has lived in Coronado for almost 20 years with her husband and son. She loves the friendly neighborhood community and the walkable access to wonderful restaurants and parks.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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