The gymnasium at Mesquite High School in Gilbert was packed for Tuesday’s state girls’ volleyball championship match between Xavier Prep and Desert Vista High as fans awaited the much-anticipated match-up between the two state powers.
And none of them left unsatisfied.
Last year, Desert Vista won the Division I state title for the first time in school history by beating Hamilton High. But it took five sets to get the job done.
This time, the title match went four sets – but one of them kept fans on the edge of their seats through a loooong second set that Desert Vista won 32-30. That set proved to be the turning point in the match since Xavier won the first set going away, 25-18, and carried that momentum over to the second set by taking an early lead.
At that point, it appeared the Thunder’s chances for a repeat title were in jeopardy.
But Desert Vista, which finished the regular season with just three losses and put together a string of 19 straight matches without a loss to close out the season, used the second-set victory to get its offense back on track, rolling over the Gators, 25-19 and 25-14, to secure its second straight championship.
That second set might have gone on even longer, but a Xavier net violation and a hitting error helped the Thunder put the cap on the win. However, Desert Vista still had to fend off five set-points to finally wrap up the win.
And the third set held early promise for Xavier as the Gators led until DV could tie things up at 15-15. That set also showed why Xavier’s senior hitter, Kahlia Lanier, is considered the premier player in the state and one of the best in the country. The USC commit contributed 12 kills in the third set on the way to closing out her senior season with 32 total kills in her final competition – and duplicating that effort against Gilbert High in the semifinals to get her Gators a shot at the title.
By the time the final set arrived, the Gators were running out of steam. They hung with DV through the early going, holding on to a 6-6 tie before the Thunder pulled away for good.
Desert Vista, which MaxPreps had rated as the No. 1 team in the country, was the school that took the state title away from Xavier in 2014, so a Gator win here would have been sweet revenge. But the Thunder returned five players from that 2014 championship team and a roster that includes eight that have committed to play next year for a variety of D-I programs – and were favored from season’s start to at least return to the title game.
Hailey Dirrigi and Hailey Harward had 19 kills apiece for Desert Vista, while Olivia Fairchild added 12 more.