It has been a roller-coaster ride for the Chandler High School boys’ volleyball team. Over the last five years, they’ve gone from failing to make it into the state tournament to winning this year’s 6A state title.
In the process, the Wolves rode the waves of emotion from high expectations to crushing defeat before finally arriving at the pinnacle of the sport.
Chandler won just five games during the 2015 season and sat out the playoffs. That was Bobby Robson‘s first year as head coach and an especially disappointing debut after his predecessor, Trent Madsen, had left him a program that went 30-13 the year before.
Things began looking up the next year when his 2016 squad finished 18-18 and earned a spot in the state tourney. That celebration didn’t last long, however. The Wolves lost their opening game, getting blanked, 3-0, by Desert Vista High School.
It looked like they finally arrived in 2017 when the No. 2-seeded Wolves made it to the championship match, only to see their quest end short of the goal when No. 4 Boulder Creek HS took the trophy in a 3-1 upset.
Last year looked even more promising when the Wolves entered the state tourney as the No. 1 seed, with high expectations. But this time it was eighth-seeded Perry HS that pulled the upset, halting their title run in the second round by handing the Wolves a surprising 3-2 defeat. It was a crushing blow for a team that had returned its entire line-up from the previous season and was heavily favored to go all the way this time.
So this year’s challenge was rebounding from the psychological let-downs of the past couple of years. But a senior-led squad that had felt the sting of those earlier failures put together a 22-win regular season and then rolled through the four games in the state tourney to finish 26-6-4 and wrap up the school’s first state championship in the sport.
But the title didn’t come easy. Mountain View High School (Mesa) staged a late rally Saturday in the first set and was poised to start the match with the lead before Adam Ray‘s kill closed out the Wolves’ win. The No. 4-seeded Toros then won the next two sets before Chandler could pull even and send it to a fifth set.
And that fifth deciding set held all the same exciting wire-to-wire play that was offered fans in the first four. That set went to two game-match points before Braxton Bradbeer, who used eight kills in the fourth set to help reach the fifth, slammed home the final point.