Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
Kayla Sims entered 2018 with a neatly defined goal.
Breaking The Master’s University’s all-time assists record was too much to chew on, so the senior broke it down into how many assists she’d need per set. It was attainable, if not a sure thing.
Then the Mustangs switched from a system that featured one setter to one that featured two, changing Sims’ role and necessitating a new focus.
“My new goal was to do whatever I could that was best for the team,” Sims said.
So, Sims asked for an opportunity to play at opposite hitter when she wasn’t setting. The result? She’s provided big points in key moments during what’s become TMU’s longest winning streak in more than a decade, and Friday’s 3-1 home win over Arizona Christian was no exception.
The No. 11-ranked Mustangs won by scores of 25-21, 25-27, 28-26 and 25-16, coming out ahead for the 10th straight match and winning for the 20th time on the season.
It equals TMU’s highest win total since 2013 and keeps the Mustangs (20-3, 9-0 GSAC) firmly entrenched in first place of the Golden State Athletic Conference. Master’s holds a three-match lead with nine to go.
Jane Cisar led Master’s with 18 kills on Friday, helping counter what could have been an overwhelming performance by Arizona’s Jackie Stein.
Stein peppered the Mustangs with 20 kills on 64 attempts, powering the Firestorm (10-6, 6-4) to a two-point win in set two and a 23-22 lead in set three.
It was a moment rarely seen in a season that’s already featured two winning streaks of at least nine matches: The Mustangs were on the ropes. Down but not out.
Sims banged a ball to the floor to even the score at 23-all. Master’s fell behind 26-25, but Sims struck again on a set from Sarah Park to knot things up.
Cisar finally ended the set with back-to-back kills. TMU cruised from there.
For Sims, it was another all-around solid match: 11 kills, 25 assists, 23 digs. On many nights over her first three years at TMU, she pushed into the 30s, 40s, even 50s in terms of assists.
She entered 2018 needing a little more than 1,100 to become TMU’s all-time leader.
Then the Mustangs switched from a 5-1 to a 6-2 to create a more diverse offensive attack, and Park stepped into the rotation and performed well.
How did Sims handle it?
“She quickly got over it,” Cisar said. “Like, very quickly, within the first couple games, and she started focusing on what’s best for the team. She’s proven to be a consistent, fearless leader.”
Coach Allan Vince was inclined to grant Sims’ request two months ago to begin working at opposite hitter because he wanted her consistent demeanor on the court for six rotations. “She leads by keeping the team’s fire consistently stoked,” Vince said.
The position wasn’t handed to her, but as opportunities came, she delivered – like Tuesday night at No. 15 Vanguard, when she halted a 7-0 Lions run with a key kill late in set five.
Sims’ elite athleticism has allowed her to make a quick transition. As a high-schooler, she once was named Alaska’s Gatorade State Player of the Year for soccer.
“Her athleticism is probably the best in the program,” Vince said. “She gets her feet to the ball all the time. She runs down every set. If it’s a bad set, she’ll get there.”
When it comes to a change of plans, she got there too.
Here’s the box score.