Cardinal Mooney had some help during its first match of a long, season-opening road stint.
There's not much in this world that brings me more joy than a loud, mocking chant from a sports crowd.
If you're reading this, I assume that you, like me, have been on both sides of chants like this. When they are directed at you, yeah, it can sting, but you also begrudgingly respect it, because you know how good it feels to let a chant loose from your lips after — or in the closing moments of — your team's win.
It was the chant of the Cardinal Mooney High volleyball team's crowd that let me know high school sports were back for real. The crowd was loud and proud during the Cougars' 3-1 road win against The Out-of-Door Academy on Tuesday night. They broke out the "I believe that we will win" chant made famous by U.S. Soccer a few times, then the classic "Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye" at the end of the match. As I was walking to my car after the match, I even heard a few people in ODA gear wondering if every Mooney match was that raucous.
Good on you, Mooney students. You made an impact — though the Cougars likely would have won in a completely silent building anyway. The Cougars won the first set 25-22, then dropped the second set 25-18, but looked downright dominant in sets three and four, winning them 25-15 and 25-10 respectively. From Mooney's point of view, it was the perfect start to the Chad Davis era, as he takes the reins from Chad Sutton.
I could break down the match. You probably can guess how it went, though. Cougars junior Jordyn Byrd was her dominant self, racking up 24 kills, 10 digs and three blocks. Sophomore Helena Hebda had 41 assists, 13 digs and four aces, and sophomore Madeline Carson added 13 kills of her own. What was most remarkable about the Cougars' performance is how much it appears nothing has changed: Mooney seems destined to be a state title contender again.
To that end, Davis has made some changes in scheduling. Davis has started the team with a deluge of road matches, culminating in a tournament at Berkeley Prep on Sept. 17-18. Mooney won't play at home until Sept. 21 against Calvary Christian. In the meantime, they'll face strong programs including local rivals Riverview High and Venice High, annually two of the top programs in the state. This is by design, Davis said. He wants the team to get acclimated to adversity early, then end the season with a string of home games to build momentum into the playoffs. It's a bold strategy, one that Davis said has worked in his past stops.
The Cougars' journey began Tuesday and will not end for quite a while. But the Cougars did everything they needed to do — and that includes the crowd. After the slog of this summer, it was a delight being in a building teeming with energy. Even Byrd got into it, waving bye-bye to ODA players after the match.
Volleyball season has begun, as has golf and cross country, and we get real football this week.
Swimming isn't far behind. I can only hope that all the crowds at those events follow suit.
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