Motivation can be a powerful force in sports. And it comes in many forms.
Just ask the Hamilton High School girls’ volleyball team.
As the Chandler school was waiting for its 6A state championship match to begin, the players must have been watching the 4A title game that took place earlier Saturday afternoon at Mesquite High School — and used it as motivation for their title victory over Perry High in the day’s final match.
In that 4A match, No. 2-seeded Salpointe Catholic upset No. 1 Notre Dame Prep, which came into the championship game undefeated in 17 regular-season matches. It took five sets, but underdog Salpointe got the job done. (See Sunday’s Phxfan post)
Hamilton was also the underdog in its championship match. Like Notre Dame, Perry was also undefeated (18-0) and the top seed in 6A, while Hamilton entered the match as the No. 2 seed. Four sets later, Hamilton made school history by winning its first state title in girls’ volleyball.
Another eerily similar tie-in between the two matches: both Salpointe and Hamilton had been unable to beat their championship opponents during the regular season. The Lancers were swept, 3-0, by NDP less than four weeks earlier. Hamilton was beaten twice by the Pumas.
And that had to make the Perry loss that much harder to take, getting beaten by a team they had already defeated twice during the regular season.
To make matter worse, this is the second year in a row that Perry wound up runner-up for the state title. Last season, the Pumas were also seeded No. 1, but lost to third-seeded Basha High School.
Here in the Southwest, we call that twice snakebit.
Hamilton looked stronger than anyone had anticipated in the championship match, as the Huskies came out firing to take a 6-1 lead in the first set before Perry was able to settle down and use a 12-point swing to pull off the 25-19 victory.
But the Huskies evened things in the second set, looking once again dominant in a 25-12 win. The third match was much closer than the first two, as the teams worked to a 17-17 tie and then went through six more ties and three lead changes before the Huskies squeezed out a 25-22 win.
The final set was all Hamilton, which led most of the way and went on to a 25-18 win for the title.
Hamilton junior outside hitter Jordan Middleton led the way for the Huskies with a game-high 20 kills. Senior outside hitter Jahara Campbell followed with 14 kills and junior OH Micah Gryniewicz added 12 more.
For Perry, it was senior Alyssa Montoya at the point of the attack with a team-high 18 kills.