Horizon, Gilbert meet tonight for D-I state volleyball title

It was beginning to look like Horizon High School was going to get a chance to even the score with Xavier Prep, as the two teams rolled into Saturday’s semi-finals of the state volleyball championships.

Horizon will be there tonight for the championship.  But Xavier, most people’s pick to win it all again this year, won’t be there to meet them.

No. 3 Gilbert High knocked off the No. 2 Gators, 3-1, over the weekend to set up a meeting with No. 4 Horizon, which also notched a major upset by beating No. 1 Mountain Ridge High School, 3-2, in the other semi-final game.

Xavier, which was going for its fifth straight state title, had won both of the major tournaments during the season.  The Gators beat Horizon for the championship of the Goldwater Volleyball Festival last month, and before that won the gold division title in the Westwood Tournament of Champions.

The Gators beat Horizon twice on their way to the Goldwater title, but Horizon had upset the Phoenix Catholic girls school early in the season, 3-0.  Tonight’s championship game would have given the Huskies a chance to even the score.

Horizon, too, is looking to repeat for a state title tonight at Grand Canyon University Arena.  They won the last two 5A-II titles and now are looking to continue the streak as they compete in the new Division I.

(*Update: Horizon will have to start over again next year to try to string state titles together.  They lost to Gilbert in an exhausting five-game match as the Tigers came back from being down two sets to win their first state championship in five years.)

Horizon returned four starters from last year’s squad, led by junior outside hitter Nikki Hess, who had a stand-out game against Mountain Ridge.  It’s a very tall team, with five of the starters standing six-foot or over.

Gilbert is a well-rounded squad, led by outside hitter Macey Gardner, who is playing her fourth season as a starter.  She contributed 17 kills against Xavier, a team-high for the match.

The Division II championship will be the early game tonight at GCU Arena, starting at 5:30 pm and featuring No. 5 Sunnyslope High School and No. 6 Arcadia High School.

(*Update: Arcadia will have to wait for its first state title.  They lost in three sets to Sunnyslope, which now has won four straight championships.)

Sunnyslope is another one of those schools looking to repeat.  A win tonight would mean four straight for the Vikings and five our of the last six years.  They beat Liberty High in the semis, pulling out a thrilling 19-17 win in the finale of a five-game set.

Arcadia is the ‘Cinderella’ at this year’s ball.  The Titans, which have a core of upperclass leadership this season, are chasing their first championship and, while considered one of the better teams this year, may have overachieved to get to the title match.  They rolled over Prescott High in three games that were not tightly contested.

But they’re here now, and waiting for a chance to prove they finally belong at the top.