Morenci earns own volleyball tourney title

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan junior Melissa Claridge goes low to receive a serve in Morenci on Sept. 7. The Wildkats bowed out of the Morenci Invitational with a two-set loss to top-seed Saint David. Duncan posted a 14-16 deciding set loss in the season region home opener with Gilbert Arete Prep on Sept. 3.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Morenci’s volleyball team did something it was unable to do during four years with 2010 grad Rhyanna Mennen as a player, and the last three years with her as a head coach. The Wildcats (9-1 overall, 2-0 seeding, 0-0 region) emerged from their own 10-team tourney holding the first place award Sept. 7. It was the largest field of 18 meets and the eighth time Morenci was a finalist, also placing first in 2014.

When coach Mennen left home early Saturday morning, she had no clue her team would leave Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with the first-place award in the evening.

Third seed Morenci edged fifth seed Miami 2-1, dropping the first set 17-25, and winning the second 25-20 plus the third 15-11 for the title. The Wildcats topped both prior bracket opponents 2-0, seventh seed New Mexico Bayard Cobre (25-22, 25-14) during the semifinals and sixth seed Globe (25-23, 25-15) during the quarterfinals.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci topped Miami 2-1 (17-25, 25-20, 15-11) to finish first in its own volleyball tourney Sept. 7. Members of the team are, seated, from left, Candace Forgach-Aguilar, Kellie O’Connell, Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar, and Eliana Cazares; standing, from left, Amaya Sanchez, Devanie Medina, Lanea Leonard, assistant coach Megan Kelly, Jadyn Aguilera, Reve Garcia, assistant coach Jamie Pomaski, Angel Ontiveros, Talia Martinez, and head coach Rhyanna Mennen.  

“I found a new line-up (and) rotation.” the fourth-year head coach said. “We struggled against Benson (in pool cross-pairings) and Globe (in bracket play), but the girls found a way to win. They dug deep, played with a lot of heart, and never lost their mental focus. I’m proud of them.”

The Wildcats trailed Miami by a set, pulled away from a late 16-16 tie to outscore the Vandals 9-4 in the second set, and broke a 9-9 tie gain a 6-2 advantage in the third set.

Miami qualified for the meet finale by upsetting two opponents, going three sets apiece against top seed Saint David (25-21, 16-25, 15-10) in the semifinals and fourth seed Benson (25-10, 26-28, 15-11) in the quarterfinals.

The third-place match between Cobre and Saint David was not played.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan junior Kinsley Rapier serves the ball against Cibecue during bracket play in Morenci. The ninth seed Wildkats ousted the eighth seed Wildcats before falling to top-seed Saint David in two sets.

Cobre upset second seed San Carlos 2-1 (32-34, 25-21, 15-8) and Saint David eliminated ninth seed Duncan 2-0 (25-10, 25-14) in the other quarterfinals.

Two-set wins were recorded by both Cobre and Duncan during the play-in round, 27-25 plus 25-16 over tenth seed San Simon and 25-22 plus 25-18 over eighth seed Cibecue, respectively.

Afternoon bracket seeds were decided by morning round-robin pool play results.

Red Pool standings were Saint David 4-0, Morenci 3-1, and Globe, Cobre, and San Simon 1-3 apiece. Saint David (total points scored 120-60) triumphed 30-9 over San Simon (83-119), 30-15 over Morenci (105-80), 30-22 over Globe (97-118), and 30-14 over Cobre (89-117); Morenci prevailed 30-16 over San Simon, 30-18 over Globe, and 30-16 over Cobre; Globe edged San Simon 30-28; Cobre defeated Globe 30-27; and San Simon slipped past Cobre 30-29.

The Black Pool had the San Carlos Braves and the Benson Bobcats both with 3-1 records, the Miami Vandals and the Cibecue Wildcats both 2-2, and the Duncan Wildkats 0-4. The Braves (117-97) topped Duncan (80-120) 30-28, Benson (91-70) 30-17, and Miami (102-82) 30-22; the Bobcats bested Miami 24-20, Duncan 30-11, and Cibecue (84-115) 30-9; the Vandals downed Cibecue 30-15 and Duncan 30-13; and the Wildcats defeated Duncan 30-28 and San Carlos 30-27.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Miami left Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with the runner-up award, following a 3-set loss to Morenci on Sept. 7.

A cross pairing of Red No. 1 Saint David topped Black No. 1 San Carlos 30-8, Red No. 2 Morenci bested Black No. 2 Benson 30-18, Black No. 3 Miami defeated Red No. 3 Globe 30-26, Red No. 4 Cobre defeated Black No. 4 Cibecue 30-23, and Black No. 5 Duncan downed Red No. 5 San Simon 30-22.

Morenci opened the week in “The Land of Enchantment” against Lordsburg, leaving with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-23) win Sept. 3, and a 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-22) home win over San Carlos Sept. 5.

The Wildcats travel to San Simon Saturday, Sept. 14 before beginning 2A East Region play.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci reserves, Eliana Cazares, Talia Martinez, Reve Garcia, Kellie O’Connell, and Angel Ontiveros react to a positive play.

Other Tourney Participants

Duncan (3-7 overall, 1-1 seeding, 0-1 1A East Region) welcomes San Simon Sept. 10 and is at Cibecue for a region match Sept. 12.

The Wildkats opened the season with a 5-set region loss (19-25, 9-25, 25-21, 25-22, 14-16) to the visiting Gilbert Arete Prep Chargers on Sept. 3. The Sandi French-coached squad followed with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22) road win over the Superior Panthers on Sept. 5.

Benson (5-3, 2-0, 0-0 2A East Region) visits Tucson Desert Christian on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The Bobcats topped two opponents 3-0, Tucson The Gregory School (25-21, 25-16, 25-23) on Sept. 3 and Valley Union in Elfrida on Sept. 4.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci fourth-year head coach Rhyanna Mennen figured out a line-up and rotation for the Wildcats to earn the tourney title.

Miami (5-4, 0-1, 0-0 2A South Region) hosts Superior on Sept. 10 and visits Globe for a region match Thursday, Sept. 12. The Vandals opened with a 3-set loss (19-25, 13-25, 21-25) at Gilbert Christian on Sept. 3.

Globe (2-6, 1-1, 0-0 2A South Region) hosts Miami at High Desert Middle School on Sept. 12. The Tigers opened with a 3-2 win (15-25, 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 15-12) at Whiteriver Alchesay on Sept. 3 before falling 0-3 (10-25, 17-25, 17-25) at Gilbert Classical on Sept. 4.

San Carlos (4-5, 0-2, 0-0 2A South Region) hosts Alchesay on Sept. 10, are at Laveen Heritage on Wednesday, Sept. 11 and welcome Tucson Desert Christian for a region contest Sept. 12. The Braves succumbed 1-3 (21-25, 25-19, 24-26, 19-25) to Fort Thomas on Sept. 3 and 0-3 (14-25, 14-25, 22-25) in Morenci on Sept. 5.

Saint David (6-1 overall, 0-0 seeding record, 0-0 1A South Region) hosts Sells Tohono O’odham for a region match Sept. 10, welcome Phoenix NFL Yet for a double-header Sept. 12, and is at Anthem Prepon Friday, Sept. 13.

San Simon (2-5, 1-0, 1-0 1A South Region) is at Duncan on Sept. 10, and hosts Fort Thomas on Sept. 11 and Morenci on Sept. 14. The Longhorns posted a 3-0 region win at The Academy of Tucson on Sept. 4.

Cibecue (2-4, 0-0, 0-0 1A East Region) is at Winkelman Hayden on Sept. 10 and hosts Duncan on Sept. 12, both in region contests.

Cobre (4-5, 0-1, 0-0 3A District 3) hosts neighboring Lordsburg on Monday, Sept. 9 and are at Tularosa on Sept. 10. The Indians brought a 0-1 record to the Morenci meet, falling in three sets at Chaparral on Sept. 3.

Morenci Tourney finalists (2018-2002)

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar places a hit against San Carlos during the home opener Sept. 5. The sophomore was selected all-tournament for the 10-team Morenci meet Sept. 7.

Eight different teams have been tourney champions, Pima five times (2008-11, 2013), Duncan four times (2004-06, 2012), Saint David (2017-18) and New Mexico Animas both twice (2004-05), and Benson (2016), Morenci (2014), Willcox (2003), and Thatcher (2002) once apiece. There was only round-robin play in 2015.

The six runners-up have been Morenci six times (2006, 2011, 2013, 2016-18), Animas four times (2005, 2008-10), Pima (2012, 2014) and Willcox (2002, 2004) both twice, and both Bowie/San Simon (2007) and Duncan (2003) once.

Saint David slipped past host Morenci in two sets in both 2018 (25-21, 25-23) and 2017 (25-20, 25-23). The 2016 meet had Benson over Morenci for first; Morenci bested Pima in 2014; Pima topped Morenci 2-0 in 2013 (25-19, 28-26) and in 2011 (21-13, 24-22), Animas 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) in 2010, plus 2-1 in both 2009 (18-21, 21-19, 15-11) and 2008 (17-21, 21-17, 16-14); Duncan prevailed 2-1 (25-22, 23-25, 17-15) over Pima in 2012, 2-0 (21-16, 21-17) over Morenci in 2006, 2-1 over Animas in 2005 and 2-1 (10-25, 25-21, 15-4) over Willcox in 2004; Animas edged Bowie / San Simon 2-1 (21-19, 18-21, 15-12) in 2007; Willcox topped Duncan 2-0 (25-23, 25-16) in 2003; and Thatcher bested Willcox 2-0 in 2002.

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