Eagles face Crusaders in 3A state volleyball semifinals Saturday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior Mikaela Jorgensen serves during a home match with Blue Ridge Oct. 24. She broke a 23-23 set one tie as the Eagles went on to win 25-23, 25-22, and 25-12. Fourth-ranked Thatcher faces top-ranked Northwest Christian for the 3A semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

TEMPE – Thatcher faces Phoenix Northwest Christian in the 3A state volleyball semifinals Saturday, Nov. 21. The Tempe Marcos de Niza pairing has the No. 4 Eagles (15.6826 rating) taking on the No. 1 Crusaders (31.4575) at 11 a.m., followed by No. 2 Snowflake (23.0460) meeting No. 3 Chandler Valley Christian (22.7252) at 1 p.m. The winners meet for the championship at 3 p.m. The opponent strength of schedule rating is 10.6176 for Metro Region champion Northwest Christian, 7.3379 for Metro Region runner-up Valley Christian, 5.9325 for East Region champion Snowflake, and 3.9826 for South Central Region champion Thatcher.

The Eagles have met the Crusaders thrice before at the same point in the playoffs. The 2012 and 2013 Division IV semifinals found the top-ranked Crusaders advancing over the Eagles both times. Thatcher was No. 4 in 2013 and No. 5 in 2012. The 2014 Eagles were No. 3 and the Crusaders No. 2 in the same class, with the Eagles advancing to earn the state title.

Over the previous decade (2010-19), the four teams are a combined 87-33 in the state meets, with Northwest Christian leading at 30-5, Thatcher 25-8, and both Valley Christian and Snowflake 16-10 apiece.

During the same span, seven-time finalist Northwest Christian has five state championships, in 2019 (3A) as No. 6 and in 2018 (3A) as No. 3, in 2013 (Division IV) as No. 1 and in 2011 (Division IV) as No. 3, and in 2010 (2A) as No. 2. Additionally, the Crusaders were runners-up in 2016 (3A) and 2012 (Division IV), both as No. 2. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A championship banner lists the three most recent state volleyball titles won by Thatcher.

Five-time finalist Thatcher was the Division IV state champion in 2014 as No. 3 and 2015 as No. 1 plus runner-up in 2019 (2A) as No. 1, in 2011 (Division IV) as No. 1, and in 2010 (2A) as No. 1.

Valley Christian was the 3A state runner-up in 2019 and Snowflake in 2017, both as No. 1.

Thatcher reached the 2020 semifinals with 3-0 wins over No. 13 Tucson Tanque Verde (25-18, 25-20, 25-17) in the first round and No. 5 Chandler Arizona College Prep (25-11, 25-19, 25-18) in the quarterfinals. Tanque Verde was rated 7. 8272 and Arizona College Prep 13.9297.

Northwest Christian knocked off Tucson schools No. 16 Sabino and No. 9 Empire (25-17, 25-10, 25-11) in three sets. Sabino was rated 3.8782 and Empire 9.9193.

Snowflake eliminated No. 15 Payson in three sets (25-11, 25-12, 25-14) and No. 10 Yuma Catholic in four sets (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21). Payson was rated 6.5057 and Yuma Catholic 9.1630.

Valley Christian prevailed in three sets over both No. 14 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (25-12, 25-17, 25-16) and No. 11 Lakeside Blue Ridge (25-12, 25-21, 25-21). Pusch Ridge was rated 7.4656 and Blue Ridge 8.9812.

First Round

The other Nov. 14 first-round pairings resulted in losses for No. 8 Fountain Hills of 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 31-29, 25-13) to Empire, No. 12 Parker of 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-21) to Arizona College Prep, No. 6 Gilbert North American Leadership by forfeit to Blue Ridge, and No. 7 Gilbert Christian of 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-14) to Yuma Catholic. The ratings were 10.3038 for Fountain Hills, 8.3965 for Parker, 13.0260 for Gilbert North American Leadership, and 12.6647 for Gilbert Christian.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior Mia Carter slams the ball against Blue Ridge sophomore Hanna Carlson (10) and junior Kinley Hartman (5) for a point. The Eagles topped the visitors 25-23, 25-22, and 25-12 on Oct. 24. Blue Ridge fell in the state quarterfinals on Nov. 14.

Play-in Round

The top 24 teams, Numbers 9-24 were involved in the play-in round, at the higher seed on Nov. 10. All of the lower seeds were eliminated, three in three sets and five in four sets.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior Maci Lopeman (3) begins to deliver a serve at a regular-season home match.

Three-set losses were posted by No. 24 Chino Valley to Empire, No. 23 Tonopah Valley to Yuma Catholic, and No. 18 Phoenix Bourgade Catholic to Payson. Chino Valley was rated minus 3.9015, Tonopah Valley minus 3.2099, and Bourgade 2.4604.

Four-set losses were incurred by No. 22 Winslow to Blue Ridge, No. 21 Safford to Parker, No. 20 Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin to Tanque Verde, No. 19 Show Low to Pusch Ridge, and No. 17 Mesa Eastmark to Sabino. The ratings were minus 0.9497 for Winslow, minus 0.5753 for Safford, 2.2530 for Benjamin Franklin, 2.3398 for Show Low, 2.8139 for Eastmark.

The top eight teams, No. 1 Northwest Christian, No. 2 Snowflake, No. 3 Valley Christian, No. 4 Thatcher, No. 5 Arizona College Prep, No. 6 Gilbert North American leadership, No. 7 Gilbert Christian, and No. 8 Fountain Hills, were idle from play until Nov. 14.

Thatcher Eagles

The Eagles ran the table in region play, with three-set wins over Safford (Oct. 29, Nov. 2), Pusch Ridge (Oct. 1, Oct. 20), Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Oct. 6, Oct. 31), Coolidge (Oct. 8, Oct. 27), and Florence (Oct. 13, Oct. 29).

Thatcher split six non-region pairings. The 13-3 Eagles topped Pima (Sept. 24) in four sets, and both Blue Ridge (Oct. 24), and Gilbert North American Leadership (Nov. 3) in three sets. The losses were in four sets to Snowflake (Sept. 22) and to Pima (Oct. 28) and in three sets to Snowflake (Nov. 5).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford seniors Sydney Tobias (7) and Kasiah Schilling (11) block a hit by Blue Ridge sophomore Anna Berges(4) during an Oct. 24 home match. The visitors slipped past the Bulldogs 28-26 in the third set and left with a 3-0 match win. Parker defeated Safford 3-1 while Blue Ridge won its play-in match on Nov. 10. The Yellow Jackets fell in the state quarterfinals on Nov. 14.

The 3A South Central Region had Thatcher first (10-0), Pusch Ridge second (8-2), Safford third (4-4), Florence fourth (3-6), San Tan Foothills fifth (2-6), and Coolidge sixth (0-9).

A 14-member Thatcher roster has seniors Ellie Alder, Sydnie Alder, Mia Carter, Dallys Casillas, Mazie Hunt, Mikaela Jorgensen, Maci Lopeman, and Cassidy Wakefield; juniors Kylee Dodge, Olivia Lunt, and Laney Morris; sophomores Madden Bingham and Ashlyn Thompson; and freshman Peyton Devlin.

Kim Orr is coaching the Eagles.

Safford Bulldogs

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford senior Brooke Lucas checks the defensive alignment before a serve.

Safford played only 12 matches during the global health crisis altered season.

The Bulldogs downed San Tan Foothills (Oct. 1) and Florence (Oct. 6) in four sets and Coolidge (Oct. 28, Oct. 29) twice in three sets. The losses were twice to both Thatcher (Sept. 29, Nov. 2) and Pusch Ridge (Oct. 8, Oct. 27) in three sets.

In non-region pairings, the Bulldogs fell to Pima (Sept. 22) and Payson (Nov. 3) in four sets and to Blue Ridge (Oct. 24) and Pima (Nov. 5) in three sets.

The 13-member Safford roster included seniors Lilly Curtiss, Brooke Lucas, Kasiah Schilling, SydneyTobias, and Isabel Viscaino; juniors Izabelle Quintero and Ashlyn Schilling; sophomores Brianna Camarena, Rene Holcomb, Emma Jarvis, and Jazmine Rios; and freshmen Mia Abalos and Jaidyn Mortensen.

Sheri Camarena coached the Bulldogs.

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