Injury, illness hurt Mohave’s cause: Midseason loss of co-captain Radic hampers Lady T-birds’ postseason bid
BULLHEAD CITY — The T-birds will be wrapping up their season on Thursday at Bradshaw Mountain High School against the Lady Bears in an Arizona Interscholastic Association 4A Grand Canyon Region volleyball game.
Mohave High School’s record is 7-9 overall, 3-8 in region, according to aiaonline.org. The T-birds are ranked No. 22 in power points after falling 3-2 to the Mingus High School Lady Marauders during their Senior Night on Monday.
Unfortunately, the T-birds will need to be ranked within the top 16 after the season finale if they are to earn a playoff berth.
For the T-birds to be so close to a playoff berth despite the challenges they faced in the second half of the season is incredible in itself.
T-birds senior outside hitter, middle hitter Natasha Radic suffered an injury to her left foot at midseason on Oct. 5 at Prescott High School, and Mohave did not get its co-captain back in the lineup until the last few matches of the season.
“We thought it was a sprain, but then ... X-rays showed there was a fracture,” Mohave head coach Zdenko Radic said. So, she had to be out for a month.
“It’s kind of tough, in the middle of the season and then when she came back it takes a while to get back,” Coach Radic said.
Natasha Radic added: “It is probably one of the hardest things that ever happened to me in my life.
“I thought it was fine. I didn’t even cry I was ready to get taped up and get in.”
Then the Prescott athletic trainer said she should sit out the rest of the match since she was not jumping well, Natasha Radic said.
“He said the way I was walking on it it didn’t look like it was fractured.”
Coach Radic said it has been a plus having his senior co-captain back.
“They all feel a little more confident, so it’s nice to have her back,” Coach Radic said.
Mohave fell 3-0 to the Lady Eagles at Flagstaff High School on Oct. 17.
Taking on the No. 5-ranked Eagles shorthanded — or otherwise — is no easy task, but Coach Radic does not want to hear any of that.
“I don’t want to be excused, but we just talked about it. ...
“That Lake Havasu tournament (Mary Jo Goldey Volleyball Invitational), and maybe a couple or two games, that’s when we really had a full squad,” Coach Radic said. “The rest of the season it was something.
“Now that Natasha is back, and she wasn’t 100 percent, we were without Savanna and Kalani,” Coach Radic said. “With Natasha halfway there and no Savanna and no Kalani, they are like three key players, it’s hard to beat a team like Flagstaff.”
Senior outside hitter, middle hitter Savanna Frei (ill) and senior Kalani Reehill missed the game and will be out for the rest of the season because Reehill is in England.
“It’s always something, trying to put everything together, but these are things you can’t control.”
The T-birds defeated the Lady Bulldogs at Kingman High School on Oct. 16.
“We controlled the game,” Coach Radic said. “Savanna did not play that much that game, but we didn’t need her.
“Natasha just came in a couple of minutes.”
Coach Radic said he pulled up from freshmen and JV and they did well during the Kingman game.
“They played for most of the time,” he added. “They were actually on the court and they beat Kingman 3-0.”
Coach Radic said freshmen Jessi Frei, Grace Martinez and Hannah Burgess, and sophomore Lexi Valdez and freshman Hannah Burgess shined during their promotion.
“They played really good,” he added.
The seven-year Mohave volleyball coach said senior libero, defensive specialist Daniela Gomez and freshman libero, defensive specialist Maya Radic played well against Kingman.
“They picked up everything,” Coach Radic said. “Maya is playing as a libero, now that Kalani is not here.
“Daniela and Kalani played well in the back row.
“It was good to see Natasha back in the action — give her some more playing time.
“I think that was her first game she played in front, so ... it was good to see her get a couple of kills, play, jump, hit and block. That was nice to see for her.”
The T-birds edged the Lee Williams High School Lady Volunteers in five sets at Mohave on Oct. 12.
“I don’t know,” Coach Radic said. “We always get excited playing Lee Williams.”
The T-birds also beat the Volunteers 3-1 at Lee Williams and at the Kingman invite 2-1, Coach Radic said.
“We don’t need extra motivation playing them,” he added. “I was kind of really impressed with my team when we played Lee Williams at their place.
“Again, I thought we really controlled the game,” Coach Radic said. “I was really proud of them because it was the first game we didn’t have Kalani and Natasha still was not in, and I thought they played awesome.
“They were really energized and just played like they can.”
Junior setter “Brianna Lipinski had some good sets and got everybody involved,” Coach Radic said. “My middle hitters, I thought they played really good at the net.
“Frei stepped it up and played every
time that we needed somebody,” Coach Radic said. “We usually would go — when we have Natasha — she’s the one when you need a sideout or a point or somebody to finish it, but now Savanna steps it up and did that part,” he added. “So, that was good to see.”
Even when Natasha Radic was healthy, it was 1A and 1B between her and Frei whenever the T-birds needed a big play.
“It’s comforting to know that there is somebody else out there who knows how I feel, said Frei about having Natasha Radic as a teammate since eighth grade at Fox Creek Junior High School. “Just being able to play at the same level as each other. It helps the team and it helps build my personal confidence.”
When she was asked about her teammate’s injury, Frei said: “It was heartbreaking; we had been playing together for so long. What am I going to do without my partner?”
Coach Radic agreed that Natasha Radic and Frei have been his one-two punch, and he agreed that those two seniors also were effective servers and played exceptionally well when they were rotated into the back row.
The T-birds came out flat, Coach Radic said, and they were swept 3-0 by the Lady Marauders at Mingus High School on Oct. 10.
“We never got it going,” Coach Radic said.
Mohave assistant coach Ljiljana Radic was called up to take the reins during the T-birds’ four-set home loss to the Prescott High School Lady Badgers on Oct. 5 after Coach Radic was suspended for being ejected during his team’s five-set home loss to Bradshaw Mountain on Oct. 3.
The Mohave head coach said it was a 3-2 game and it never should have come down to that, but “things happen,” Coach Radic added.
“I think Lilly did a good job, there, and it’s not easy for a coach, although the kids know where they’re playing and who’s playing what, it still takes a little time to adjust to that for a kid or a coach, too, but I think everybody did the best they could.”
Senior middle hitter Rawaan Ktahib and junior middle hitter Natalie Willmore have played well for the T-birds this season, Coach Radic said.
“I think the two of them have really stepped up their game,” he added.
SPECIAL SENIOR CLASS: Khatib, Gomez, Savannah Frei, Natasha Radic and Reehill were each a part of the T-birds’ special run into the state playoffs in 2015.
Coach Radic said he talked to the team before Senior Night and told them how they changed the volleyball in town.
“They changed the culture,” Coach Radic said. Before them, there was not much talk about the volleyball. Now, wherever you go in town, everybody knows.
“I see people all of the time and they tell me, ’Wow, those girls play great; the program, itself, has just changed a lot.
“And a lot of those seniors get huge credit for that.”
Seniors Esmeralda Arellano and Jessenia Sanchez were not on the Mohave varsity roster in 2015.