Thursday, June 13, 2024

CLINCHED! Mojo Punch Ticket to Playoffs, Triumph Over Fury

The crowd of 3,740 rose to its feet and roared its excitement at SDSU’s Viejas Arena as the Mojo’s Lindsey Vander Weide made the kill to win the match. On Tuesday evening, after most of the pundits counted them down and out after a 0-3 start to the season, the Mojo clinched a playoff berth in Pro Volleyball Federation’s inaugural season with a 4-set defeat of the Columbus Fury, 25-22, 25-21, 19-25, 25-21.

“We want to win a championship.”

– Coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park

“It was pure excitement, pure joy,” said head coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park. “We’ve all been holding our breath and been tense for a really long time and I am just so darn proud of this team.”

With two matches remaining in the regular season, the team whose season started so dismally could now be the first in San Diego’s history to bring home a championship. “We told them [the team] in the circle, our work isn’t done,” said Haneef-Park. “It’s great that we made the playoffs but we don’t just want to be there, we want to put up a good fight. We want to win a championship.”

The crowd celebrated the Mojo victory after match point at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. With the win, the Mojo clinched a playoff spot in the inaugural league championship.

Tuesday’s win means that the Mojo will play at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on May 15. With good luck, great play, and the all-important semi-final win, the Mojo will also play on May 18 where the Pro Volleyball Federation Champion will receive a $1 million bonus.

Ali Bastianelli and Temi Thomas-Ailara go up for the block. Photo credit: Deanna Goldberg

The team got off to a strong start both offensively and defensively, going on a 7-0 run, thanks to three kills and two blocks by Ali Bastianelli and Temi Thomas-Ailara, and two aces by setter Nootsara Tomkom. A 4-1 run a few points later allowed the team to go up 11-4. The Fury closed to within two, 16-14, off of their own 9-2 run that finally ended with a kill by Thomas-Ailara. The Mojo closed out the set 25-22 with 16 kills, four blocks, and a team-high four aces. As has been the case for the latter part of the season, the Mojo spread their attack. Thomas-Ailara had six kills, Vander Weide had four, Ronika Stone three, Morgan Lewis one, and Bastianelli had two to go along with two aces and two blocks.

“[Ali] helps us so much in the front row offensively and defensively,”  said teammate Thomas-Ailara. “Her serve as well is insane. Being on the other side of it during serve-and-pass [drill] is humbling.”

Set two was close through most of the set. The teams stayed within three points of each other until a late run increased the Mojo lead to four, 24-20. The Mojo closed the set on a 7-3 run to win, 25-21. Vander Weide led the team in kills with six. In Set 3, a 4-0 run in the middle of the set forced a Mojo timeout, as they went down 15-11. The Fury eventually closed out the set, 25-19.

Morgan Lewis gets the kill. Photo credit: Deanna Goldberg

The Mojo could not separate itself from the Fury in Set 4 until a late 4-1 run put the team up 20-16. From there, the teams traded points until the final set and match point, 25-21. The Mojo had 18 kills in the fourth set alone, including seven from Thomas-Ailara, five from Vander Weide, and four from Lewis. “[Temi] can come through big time,” said Bastianelli. “As a rookie, she has handled it so well. She has had a big load on her shoulders this whole season and tonight especially, she showed up.”

Thomas-Ailara and Vander Weide led the team with 20 and 17 kills respectively for the match. The Mojo depart Wednesday morning for their Thursday match against the Valkyries. From there, they travel to Columbus for their final regular-season match on May 11.

Libero Shara Venegas has been instrumental to the team’s defensive success this season. Photo credit: Deanna Goldberg

Upcoming Matches

All remaining matches are away. Sign up to find out where the watch parties will be!

May 9:  Away versus the Orlando Valkyries, 4 p.m. Pacific  Watch on YouTube here

May 11: Away versus the Columbus Fury, 4 p.m. Pacific. Watch on YouTube here

May 15: Semi-finals in Omaha, Neb. Get tickets here

May 18: Finals in Omaha, Neb. Get tickets here

Read more about the team when they were 2-6 and on an upward trajectory:

SD Mojo Pro Volleyball: Much to Love, Watch Party, Great Ticket Deals



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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