After 2-year pause, beach volleyball teams back to defend titles

It’s been two years since a high school beach volleyball team in Arizona was crowned state champion.

So how will that long pause in play affect the ability of the reigning champs to defend their titles?

Since March of last year, when the coronavirus caused the cancellation of the 2020 season, teams had been limited to conducting virtual workouts while they waited patiently for the start of another season when they could get back on the sand.

That season is in the books now, and state tournament play is beginning.

Xavier Prep was set to defend its 2019 Division I crown last year before the virus hit, and Mesquite High School was set to try for back-to-back D-II titles before the cancellation.

Now, both schools have opened the 2021 state tournament with victories that have put them on the road to repeats.  But Mesquite is going to have a bumpier ride.

In yesterday’s opening round, Xavier rolled past No. 16 seed Campo Verde HS, 5-0, and Mesquite put up a similar performance in routing No. 13  Mohave HS by an identical 5-0 score.  But Mesquite will have to face top-seeded and undefeated Salpointe Catholic if the Wildcats get past No. 12 Estrella Foothills HS, which pulled off a big upset yesterday over No. 5 Gilbert Christian. 

Meanwhile, Xavier will have to dispatch No. 8 Millennium HS in the quarterfinal game and then will need to beat either No. 5 Basha HS or No. 13 Ironwood Ridge HS to reach the title game.

Xavier, a Catholic all-girls school in central Phoenix, has dominated the sport since it was added to the Arizona high school landscape in 2012 and grown to be a popular and well-attended team sport.  The Gators have won seven of the eight titles during that time.

And this season they are the team to beat once again in the state’s top division.  They were undefeated (12-0) coming into the state tourney, so dominant that they blew past second-ranked Perry HS in a regular-season meeting, 5-0.

Mesquite, on the other hand, is late to the party; its 2019 title win was the program’s first.

The Wildcats came into the tournament with a 12-1 record, their only loss to No. 1 Salpointe (11-0) in a close contest that Mesquite lost, 3-2, after the Wildcats were forced to forfeit a game as a result of an injury.

Now it appears there’s a good chance the Wildcats will get an opportunity to avenge that lone loss — with a lot more riding on the outcome this time.