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November 24, 2008

VOLLEYBALL: Home finale for Warner

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Written by: Staff

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Peterson Gym is one of the most storied buildings on Montezuma Mesa.

Open since 1961, it’s seen its fair share of athletic events and moving performances.

But Thursday night, “The Pete” played host to one of the most emotional nights in its history, as the San Diego State volleyball team said “goodbye” to its seniors as well as renowned head coach Mark Warner.

The night had a great start, with SDSU beating Mountain West Conference rivals Air Force 25-18, 25-14, 17-25, 25-8.

“The first two sets in the match went pretty much how I expected,” Warner said. “But, in set three, (Air Force) started playing well. However, we were able to fight back and handle them in set four.”

After the game, Warner was presented with a flattering ceremony in dedication to his Aztec volleyball career.

“(The ceremony) was overwhelming,” Warner said. “I knew that it was going to be bigger than what I would have wanted it because that’s just not me, but they did a great job. I really appreciate what everyone did. It was very touching.”

Apparently, Warner’s shyness of the spotlight is well known by many in the SDSU coaching community, making the game a special spectacle for some.

“(Women’s soccer head coach) Mike Friesen was watching me to see how I was going to act during my final game,” Warner said. “He wanted to see if I was going to get sentimental or put my hands over my face, but he said I looked focused. I was just watching my team.

“But, once it was over and I started to realize what was coming up next I thought, “Oh my goodness.’”

The night wasn’t all about Warner, however. Thursday night was also Senior Night, as the Aztecs sent off setter Leah Lathrop and libero Michelle Ferrer.

“Both of those girls are extremely hard workers,” Warner said. “Leah’s best quality is her work ethic, which was very evident after she was able to work back from tearing up her knee last year. To see her play the way she has after four or five months is pretty amazing.”

Like Lathrop, Ferrer also committed to working out her own hardships.
“Michelle started as a walk on,” Warner said. “She eventually started traveling, gained more and more playing time and then finally earned a scholarship for her final year. She prevailed in times where most people would have given up and made herself a real factor on this team.”

From the win against a MWC rival to the ceremonies for two inspirational players and a legendary coach, Thursday night’s festivities filled Peterson Gym up with emotional sentiment.

“I think the night was as good as it could be,” Warner said. “After the game, almost my entire team from 1995 came and took me to the beach. They’ve probably waited their entire lives to do that. It was just a really cool night.”

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