Hamilton High School just won the Gold bracket title at this year’s Westwood Tournament of Champions girls’ volleyball tournament, a major early-season event that draws many of the top-ranked big-school teams in Arizona.
And that puts the Chandler team smack dab in the cross hairs of the Xavier Prep squad.
Xavier has won two state titles in the last four years, in 2013 and again last year. Both years, the winner of the Westwood TOC made a strong run through the state playoffs as a favorite to win it all.
Each time, it was the Gators waiting for them in the championship match. Each time it was the Gators that took home the state title.
Four years ago, Xavier beat Hamilton in the state finals, 3-2. Last year, the Gators were somewhat of a dark horse, seeded No. 5 in the playoffs. By upsetting No. 1 Horizon High in the semifinals, they earned the right to play No. 2 Corona del Sol HS, the Westwood winner. A 3-1 victory gave the central Phoenix Catholic school its 12th title over the last two decades.
Hamilton looks like a team on a mission again this season, undefeated at 14-0. In the weekend’s Westwood, one of the teams they took out on their way to the tourney title was Corona, which had won the tournament held at Westwood High School in Mesa the last two years.
With a deep roster that includes seven seniors, Hamilton needed a big game from one of those seniors to get past previously-undefeated Perry High School in the title match of the Gold bracket. Taylor Jacobsen contributed nine kills and four blocks to help the Huskies squeeze out a 19-17 win in the deciding third set. Hamilton took the first match, 25-21, but Perry came back with a 25-18 victory to force the final set.
The lead changed hands often in the early going, but Hamilton had the Pumas on the ropes with a couple of match points at 14. Perry (7-1) rallied and had its own match point at 15 before the score was tied at 16-16 and again at 17 before the Huskies added the next two points to pull out the win.
Jacobsen, who was named the tournament MVP, had some help at the net in that final set. Micah Gryniewicz had six kills and Jordan Middleton chipped in five more. Setters Tatum Thomas and Reilly Babcock teamed up for 29 assists, with Babcock edging out her teammate with 15.
Sian Richardson led Perry with 13 kills for the match, with Brooklyn Poling posting eight kills and Tatum Stall adding six more.
If Hamilton does, in fact, end up meeting Xavier for this year’s 6A state championship, the Huskies will have a couple of opportunities to find out what they will be up against. The two teams meet twice in the regular season, on Oct. 10 and Oct. 23.
Xavier, too, has been showing its muscle early. The Gators are 10-2, with their two losses to out-of-state teams they ran into at the Durango Fall Classic, in which they participated over the weekend while Hamilton was busy winning the Westwood.