Mesa HS earns ‘favorite’ role in boys’ volleyball at Wolf Howl

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                </div>  The Wolf Howl Invitational over the weekend gave many of the best boys’ volleyball teams in the state a chance early in the season to set the stage for […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Wolf Howl Invitational over the weekend gave many of the best boys’ volleyball teams in the state a chance early in the season to set the stage for what’s ahead in May when the state tournament begins.

But the two-day event hosted by Chandler High School merely confirmed pre-season expectations, as Mesa High left Coy Payne Gymnasium with the tournament’s gold division title for the second year in a row.  The Jackrabbits, who made it to the state semi-finals last year before losing in five sets to defending state champ Highland High, seem to be the consensus this year as the favorite to win it all this time.

Brophy Prep handed Mesa just its second loss of the season in the early play on opening day of the Wolf Howl, knocking them off in three sets,  But the Jackrabbits corrected that misstep in the tournament finals when they beat Brophy in identical  25-23 sets and held the upper hand throughout both matches.  The loss to Brophy was Mesa’s only defeat in 11 matches during the tourney.

J.T. Hatch, Mesa’s 6’3″ outside hitter who has committed to play next year at UCLA, led the way in the title match with 14 kills and 10 digs.

But it was the other outside hitter, Seth Johnson, that got the Jackrabbits off to a strong start, contributing six kills and 11 digs in the first set as Mesa got out of the blocks with a 10-6 lead and forced Brophy to take a time-out to get focused. The second set was more of the same, as Mesa got control early, but the Broncos were able to knot it at 23 before bowing out.

Although there are another eight weeks left on the schedule, the Wolf Howl could well be a preview of the state finals.  Mesa went 39-9 last year and returns height (including 6’8″ Jacob Komenda in the opposite hitter role), speed, and power at the net.  Brophy finished last season 32-9 and is a young team, but has 10 upper classmen on the 16-team roster to provide guidance and stability.

Highland should be in the mix again this year, but is in something of a re-building mode after losing 10 players from last year’s squad that won 30 games.

Chandler’s Hamilton High, which played Mesa for the right to advance to the weekend finals and narrowly missed upsetting the Jackrabbits, should also figure to be in the state-title conversation that will take place as May gets closer.  The Huskies handed Brophy its only other loss of the season, beating the Broncos in two sets in the opening day of the Wolf Howl.

But tomorrow, Brophy gets a chance to even that score when the two teams meet in Hamilton’s gym for a regular-season game.