El Diamante comes back in five-set thriller

El Diamante’s Joscelyn Pena serves the ball against Tulare Western on Tuesday night. The Miners defeated the Mustangs in five sets to improve to 8-5 this season.(Kason Clark)

Coming behind from a two-set deficit, the El Diamante Miners won three straight sets to defeat Tulare Western; the Miners have now extracted five wins from their last six matches

VISALIA – The El Diamante Miners found themselves in a hole at home on Tuesday night as they trailed two sets to none to the visiting Tulare Western Mustangs. But the Miners found a spark in the third set, which carried them to two straight victories to force a fifth game.

Despite a battle from the Mustangs in the fifth, the Miners pulled it out to win the match (24-26, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17, 16-14). After falling behind to start the night, El Diamante head coach Ken Clyburne expressed pride for how the Miners finished the night.

“In between the second and third, I said we had to get out faster, and we did that,” Clyburne said. “It was just a change in attitude and we adjusted so I was proud of the way that we handled games three, four and five.”

The comeback is another example of the Miners’ strong play recently. In their last six matches, the Miners have now gone 5-1 to improve their overall record to 8-5 this season. But early on Tuesday night, the Miners did not look like that hot team.

To start the first game of the night, the Mustangs raced out to a 5-1 lead. The Miners showed some early resiliency battling back to make it, 7-7, but the Mustangs retook control to stretch it out to a 17-12 lead.

Again, the Miners battled back and even took a 24-23 lead. But the Mustangs scored the final three points of the set to win it, 26-24, for a 1-0 lead on the night. After facing significant deficits earlier in the set, Clyburne believes it was too much to overcome in the end.

“We just fell behind too far, too fast and it’s hard against a good team to keep chipping away and try to find a way to win it at the end of those games,” Clyburne said. “We have a tendency to just wait and see what happens and then at that point, against a good team, you might be down too many to come back.”

Just like the first, the Miners fell behind early in the second as the Mustangs trotted out to a 9-3 lead. Again, the Miners dug themselves out of a hole to make it a 16-16 game. But the Mustangs took the lead again and held steady to win it, 25-23, to put the Miners on the brink.

With their backs against the wall, the Miners played competitively to start the third. Throughout the set, the Mustangs and Miners exchanged points with neither team going on a run. Finally with the game tied, 19-19, the Miners found their stride to win, 25-21, to extend the night.

That momentum carried over into the fourth where the Miners climbed out to a 9-3 lead. The Mustangs were unable to muster a response as the Miners maintained control en route to a 19-11 lead.

The Mustangs finally found their footing and went on a run to cut the deficit to 20-17. But the Miners held strong to win it, 25-17, to force a fifth set. As the Miners climbed their way back into the game, Tulare Western head coach Kaylee Taylor believes it was their defense that forced a fifth set.

“El Diamante just picked it up and they were just digging every ball from my big hitters,” Taylor said. “They did a great job on defense tonight for El Diamante.”

With momentum, the Miners took a 3-0 lead to start the fifth. After the Mustangs responded to tie it up, the Miners scored two straight points to take a 5-3 lead. The two teams then exchanged points throughout the fifth until the Miners eked out a 13-10 lead.

The Mustangs tried to keep it alive as they came back to make it, 14-14. But the Miners scored two straight points to close out the set and complete the comeback victory. With a resounding win like this, Clyburne hopes the Miners can learn from it as they now get ready for league play.

“It’s just confidence with this group. They just need to understand they’re a good team,” Clyburne said. “We have to really play as a team and do the small things well if we’re going to beat good teams like we did tonight.”

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