Sharon Vanis‘ strategy for the 2021 high school volleyball season has paid off with a state championship.
The Hamilton High School volleyball coach entered this year’s team into national tournaments and even hosted one of the biggest, the Geico Volleyball Invitational, to test her players against the best teams she could find.
That early preparation paid off over the weekend when the Huskies won their second straight 6A state championship by upsetting the No. 1 seed, Sandra Day O’Connor High School, in the state tournament held at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
The title match went four sets before Hamilton, seeded No. 2, pulled out the win: 26-24, 25-22, 25-27, 25-20. The lead in that third set seesawed back and forth before the O’Connor Eagles (28-5) squeezed out the victory, and then a relentless Hamilton defense closed the door in the final set.
This time the Huskies were able to get out front, 2-0, and hold on to the lead. In the first game of the season, the two teams squared off and Hamilton took a 2-0 lead, but the Eagles surged back and won the match in five sets.
The early competition against out-of-state teams taught the Huskies how to close out matches, which they did when it mattered the most. The result was just the second state championship in the sport for the Chandler school.
Hamilton viewed the early loss to O’Connor as an ‘oops’ since they lost just one other time to an in-state team the rest of the way, a stunning 0-3 loss to Perry High School in late October.
The Huskies finished the season 34-5, with three of those losses to out-of-state teams that included Marymount HS from California, which is the No. 1 team in the country (MaxPreps) and the team that beat the Huskies for the Geico tournament title last month.
Coach Vanis credits outside hitters Jordan Middleton and Micah Gryniewicz as keys to the back-to-back title drives. The pair have been playing together since eighth grade and finally that partnership paid big dividends as the Hamilton offense ran through the towering seniors all season long.
Middleton closes out her prep career with a team-high 516 kills and 48.7 kill percentage. Gryniewicz was close behind with 381 kills and 42.3 percent.
But the big question now centers on what Vanis is going to be able to do going forward as Middleton heads off to begin her college career at USC and Gryniewicz moves on to play at Alabama.
Right now, a three-peat doesn’t look promising.