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Mojave banks on underrated talent, grit in I-A tourney

Most varsity athletes have grown up with some measure of success. Generally, they were the top athletes on youth teams, leading their squads to championships and getting selected to all-star teams.

But Mojave boys volleyball coach Erik Davis said that’s not the case for his squad. That’s why a state championship would be that much sweeter for the Rattlers (17-4), who begin play in the eight-team Division I-A state tournament against host Desert Pines (0-13) at 7 p.m. today.

Sunrise Mountain (2-10) plays Clark (10-9) at 2 p.m., Cheyenne (5-12) faces Tech (10-11) at 3:40 and Western (1-14) plays Chaparral (10-6) at 5:20.

“A lot of these kids haven’t experienced success the way other kids have,” Davis said. “It means a lot more to some of the guys on our team. They deserve it. Our entire school deserves it, to be honest.”

Mojave was one win from a title last year, losing 3-1 to Tech in the I-A championship match.

Davis returns three starters from that squad: senior setter Jovan Carrazco, junior middle blocker Jordan Glenn and senior opposite hitter Matt Albinio. Davis thinks their state tournament experience should help lift the Rattlers this time.

“Most kids grow up experiencing (success) with their 6-year-old soccer tournaments and Little League baseball and preparing themselves for these events, whereas my kids really haven’t experienced anything quite like that in sports,” Davis said. “With last year’s experience, I think they’ll be able to handle themselves with a lot more poise and maturity.”

Sophomore Malik Wayman came up from the junior varsity and played in the championship match last season, giving the team another player who has experienced the postseason.

“We talk about playing in the moment a lot and celebrating small victories and not getting overwhelmed by the atmosphere of what’s to come,” Davis said.

The Rattlers also have to guard against becoming complacent, knowing that they’ve already defeated every other team in the tournament.

“Being that we’ve already beat every team that we have to play in the tournament, we just have to play with confidence, not arrogance, but with a great deal of confidence,” Davis said. “We have to be able to relax out there and take each point and play to the best of our ability. Focus on playing great volleyball. If we play great volleyball, I think they’ll see the results that they want to see.”

The Division I state tournament begins Tuesday at Legacy. Valley (18-8) meets Legacy (26-3) in the first semifinal at 5 p.m., with Shadow Ridge (13-6) facing Las Vegas (20-5) at 7.

Both tournaments conclude Wednesday.

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.

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