If there’s anything the boys’ volleyball state tournament has demonstrated, it has to be the parity of this year’s field.
The highest seeds have been left by the side of the road, many matches throughout the tourney have gone to four and five games, and tomorrow’s championship game will feature the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds.
No. 5 Gilbert High School ousted No. 1 seed Hamilton High in yesterday’s semi-final match-up, while No. 6 Brophy Prep earned its shot at the title by being the first team to de-rail the No. 10 seed, Highland High School.
Highland’s “Cinderella” trip through the tourney included three straight wins, including an upset of No. 2 Corona del Sol High School. Despite its middle-of-the-pack seeding, Highland can play with the best. The Hawks played for the championship against Gilbert in the mid-April Brophy Prep Invitational that included six of the top-10 ranked teams.
(*Update: Gilbert, which has been to the semi-finals a couple of times but has never won a state title, got its first by beating Brophy in four games, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20.)
In yesterday’s semis, a young Highland team (two seniors) took Brophy to four games before succumbing, and gave fans some heart-stopping moments – particularly in the third game when the Hawks held on through three game points. The Broncos went on to win the squeaker and the final game for a 25-20, 21-25, 29-27, 25-20 victory.
For Highland, it was a deja vu experience. They were beaten in the 2006 state title match by Brophy, and now it’s the Broncos stopping them just short of the final game.
In last night’s late match, Gilbert needed just three games to eliminate No. 1 Hamilton High School. The Hawks won 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 with great defense and a 16-kill, six-block performance by Cody Martin.
Hamilton has struggled at times in the tourney and may have been due for the upset. The Huskies barely got past No. 17 Mesa High in the opening game, winning the first two games but then letting Mesa take the match to five games, and then needed four games to get past No. 8 Boulder Creek High School.
It has taken Gilbert three years to get back to the championship. The Hawks made it there for the first time in 2009, but lost the title match to Mountain Pointe High School.
This time they had to overcome the mental hurdle of playing against a team that not only carried the No. 1 seeding, but also beat them in an earlier regular-season match.
Gilbert did it this time with great blocking at the net and a shared offensive effort. Tyler Hutchins added 10 kills to Martin’s performance, and Travis Cole and Spencer Wright each contributed six more.
Tomorrow’s championship match will be held at Gilbert High School, the site of yesterday’s semis, at 7 pm.