The odds are good that this year’s state championship game for boys’ volleyball will be played between nationally-ranked teams.
Three of the top-15 high school teams in the nation rolled through the opening round of the 6A state tournament on Monday, each posting 3-0 victories and favored to win again in tonight’s quarterfinal round. Two of the teams are from the same Arizona city.
Perry High School is the odds-on favorite to win it all. The Pumas are undefeated, 17-0 in the regular season, and ranked as the No. 1 high school team in the nation by MaxPreps.
(*Update: Perry capped off its undefeated season by winning the state title in a closely-contested 3-2 match with Sandra Day O’Connor HS, the No. 2 seed and No. 5-ranked team nationally. Perry had to come back for the win after losing the first set, something they hadn’t faced in the regular season.)
But the Gilbert school is not the only big dog in the tourney. Perennial power Sandra Day O’Connor HS (Phoenix) and Highland HS (Gilbert) have lost just three matches combined this season. O’Connor (13-1) was ranked No. 4 nationally coming into the state tourney and now is No. 9 on the MaxPreps listing. Highland (15-2) started at No. 11 and is now No. 12.
However, this state title is Perry’s to lose. The Pumas would have to beat themselves with an off-night to lose this chance to bring home the school’s first state championship in boys’ volleyball.
Perry has lost just five sets during the entire regular-season schedule. And the Pumas beat both No. 2-seeded O’Connor and No. 3 Highland in back-to-back wins during the first week of the season. Both were 3-1 victories.
They were two of just five teams this season that were able to score a single set against the dominant Pumas. The other 13 matches were shutouts.
If Perry gets past No. 8 Liberty HS in tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game, the Pumas will face either fifth seed Chandler HS, the reigning state champion, or No. 4 Brophy Prep in the semifinals. Those two schools are among the select few that have won a single set from Perry, but the Pumas beat each twice in the regular season.
O’Connor will face off against No. 7 Mesa HS and Highland takes on No. 6 Desert Vista HS.
In addition to having the most talented team in the state this season, Perry has a few other motivators working to get them to the finish line.
This team would be the first in any sport at Perry to win a boys’ state championship. Becoming the first to hang a championship banner would be a huge accomplishment for this squad. They are already the first boys’ volleyball team in the state to be ranked No. 1 nationally.
Secondly, they are driven to succeed after watching the Perry girls’ volleyball team make it to the state finals the last two seasons, only to fall short both times.
And finally, this group is playing for last year’s seniors who lost their chance at a state title when the coronavirus threat cancelled the 2020 season.
The Pumas are on a mission this season. And they’re just three games away from reaching their goal.