Boulder Creek HS wins first-ever boys’ volleyball state title

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                </div>  The Mesquite High School gymnasium was rocking last night as a near-capacity crowd showed up to witness a little boys’ volleyball history about to be made.  Neither of the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Mesquite High School gymnasium was rocking last night as a near-capacity crowd showed up to witness a little boys’ volleyball history about to be made.  Neither of the teams playing in this year’s Division I state finals had ever won a state championship.

For the Mesa High Jackrabbits, it was their first time appearing in the finals.  They were the top-seeded squad in this year’s state tournament and were favored to take home their first championship.  In fact, the Jackrabbits had been set up as the team to beat since the season began and lived up to expectations by posting a 43-3 record for the regular season.

(*Editor’s note: The “Division I” designation is somewhat misleading in this sport, since there is only one division that includes schools from across the state, setting up a disparity that pits schools with enrollments of less than 500 to those that have thousands on campus.  The Division II brackets were eliminated several years ago.)

The only in-state teams to beat Mesa this season were Chandler’s Hamilton High and Boulder Creek High School from Anthem.  Hamilton and Mesa met in the semi-finals and the Jackrabbits avenged the regular-season loss by sweeping the Huskies and moved on to play the winner of the Boulder Creek vs. Mountain View (Mesa) semi-final.

But No. 6-seeded Boulder Creek rolled over the Toros in straight sets to earn the right to meet Boulder Creek one more time.

That see-sawing title match gave the noisy, enthusiastic crowd something to constantly cheer about.  While Boulder Creek started out by winning the first set, the Jackrabbits had set point before letting the second set slip from their grasp, and then went on to win the third to set up a closely-contested fourth set.

Mesa had not lost a five-set match all season, but the most important one of all went to Boulder Creek, 25-18, 28-26, 25-27, 25-18.

Boulder Creek was considered by most to be one of the top three teams in the state, despite the seeding at No. 6.  But Mesa had power at the net, speed everywhere on the court, and team chemistry from key returners off a team that went 39-9 last season and lost in five sets in the state semi-finals.

And it was Mesa’s senior outside hitter J.T. Hatch, a UCLA commit, who topped hitters on both teams with 22 kills.

But the Jaguars were prepared for Hatch, using Cody Williams and Alex Boyce to effectively block many of Hatch’s attempts at the net, holding the 6’3″ power hitter in check for the first two games.

Ryne Benson led the way for Boulder Creek with 19 kills, but had some help from Williams and Elijah Mowry, who had 13 kills apiece.  Jacob Komenda was second behind Hatch on Mesa’s side, with 12 kills.

Both teams have come tantalizing close to that elusive state title in recent years.  In addition to Mesa’s ouster in the semis last year, Boulder Creek made back-to-back appearances in the state finals in 2007 and again in 2008.

Mesa will get a chance to try again next year, but will have to make the journey without its head coach.  Tony Millanes will be switching colors – and genders – next year when he takes over the girls’ volleyball program at Mountain View.