Brooke Nuneviller did everything she could to help bring a couple of state volleyball titles to Corona del Sol High School during an impressive prep career. The Aztecs won the first one, but couldn’t get past Xavier Prep to add another before the 5’11” outside hitter begins preparing to depart for college.
Xavier, which had already beaten the Aztecs twice this season, made it three in a row by defeating the Aztecs in the 6A state championship earlier this week, marking the Gators’ first volleyball title in the past four years. That’s a long dry spell for a volleyball program that’s used to winning, stacking up 12 state championships in the past two decades.
It was Nuneviller that carried the load when the two teams met during the regular season at the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions at the end of September, Xavier’s first win over the state’s defending champion. The senior led the Corona attack with 12 kills, but it wasn’t enough to keep Xavier from the 2-1 victory in the match for third place, becoming the highest finisher among local entrants.
In Tuesday’s title match, it was Nuneviller on the attack again, leading the team with 16 kills and throwing in 17 digs to tie Maddie Noble for the team high in that category.
Those three losses to Xavier (40-3) – the third coming during the Gilbert Invitational just a week after the Nike TOC – are the only matches the Aztecs didn’t win as they compiled a 41-3 record. And Nuneviller made her presence felt throughout the season, leading the team in kills with 577 total – more than twice as many as any of her teammates – and also ranked third in blocks.
Last year’s state title was the first in the sport since 1991, and a successful attempt at a second consecutive would have been a great way to cap off a career. But Xavier wasn’t about to let this one slip away, despite needing a fourth set (23-25, 26-24, 25-17, 25-17) to put away the victory.
And much of the credit in the title game goes to Xavier’s senior hitter, Lanie Wagner, who was able to finish out her high school career with the state title that got away from Nuneviller. Wagner finished the night with a match-high 22 kills, 17 digs, and two blocks. A small, but significant reward for that effort: she got to serve the final point.
Helping her at the net was sophomore outside hitter Brianna McKnight, who recorded 13 kills. There were no other double-digit kills, but sophomore Jasmine Knight and senior Ericka Snopko each contributed seven. Snopko, a 6’0″ middle blocker, closed out her final season with 131 kills and 73 blocks.
Xavier head coach Lamar-Renee Bryant took over the program from Tim McHale in 2013 and now has added a second state title at Xavier to her resume.
In 5A… Sunnyslope High School returned to the top of the volleyball mountain by beating Queen Creek High in four sets (25-19, 25-27, 25-23, 25-21) in a match that avenged last year’s loss in the state championship game. Prior to that championship-game loss, the Vikings had won eight straight titles.
All of that playoff experience tipped the tables toward Sunnyslope since this was Queen Creek’s first championship game. The Bull Dogs finish the season 27-16.
Senior Kayla Matthews led the attack for Sunnyslope, which closed out the season with a 31-9 record. The senior outside hitter finished with a team-high 15 kills