Pima and Thatcher advance to state volleyball semifinals

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Ashlie Sherwood (17) spikes the ball during Pima’s 3-0 victory over visiting Benson on Oct. 29. The Roughriders have advanced to the state semifinals and face Scottsdale Christian on Saturday, Nov. 21.

No. 3 Pima to face No. 2 Scottsdale Christian as top four teams advance; in 3A, No. 4 Thatcher will face No. 1 Northwest Christian

By Raymundo Frasquillo

TEMPE – The top four ranked 2A volleyball teams advanced to the state meet semifinals at Tempe McClintock on Saturday, Nov. 21. The 10 a.m. match has No. 4 Chandler Prep (12.8340 rating) facing No. 1 Glendale Trivium Prep (22.9095) while the noon pairing has No. 3 Pima (14.8821) taking on No. 2 Scottsdale Christian (18.5145). The championship match, between the two semifinal winners, follows at 3 p.m.

Chandler Prep advanced with 3-0 wins over No. 13 Phoenix Veritas Prep (25-17, 25-17, 25-23) in the first round and No. 5 Round Valley (25-15, 25-12, 25-17) in the quarterfinals.  Veritas Prep was rated 3.3387 and Round Valley 11.7744.

Trivium Prep drew a first-round bye and knocked off No. 8 Glendale Prep in three sets (25-20, 25-17, 25-17). Glendale Prep was rated 9.8897.

Pima eliminated No. 14 Tucson Saint Augustine Catholic in three sets (25-13, 25-14, 26-12) and No. 6 Scottsdale Prep in four sets (25-17, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21). Saint Augustine was rated 2.8148 and Scottsdale Prep 11.7744.

Scottsdale Christian prevailed in three sets over both No. 15 Phoenix Christian (25-12, 25-8, 25-6) and No. 7 Phoenix Country Day School (25-10, 25-11, 25-15). Phoenix Christian was rated minus 2.2398 and PDSD 10.2219.

Scottsdale Christian gave Pima its only conference loss this year, beating the Roughriders 3-0 back on Oct. 12. Pima went undefeated in its region and was crowned the 2A East Region Champions.

In local 3A action, No. 4 Thatcher beat the No. 13 Tanque Verde Hawks 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-8), and the No. 5 Arizona College Prep Knights 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-18) to advance to the 3A State Semifinals as well.

Thatcher will face the No. 1 Northwest Christian Crusaders on Saturday, Nov. 21, starting at 11 a.m. at Marcos de Niza High School. This will be the teams’ first meeting this year.   

First Round

The other first-round pairings resulted in losses for No. 9 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran of 3-1 (25-12, 23-25, 25-21, 25-15) to Glendale Prep, No. 12 Sedona Red Rock of 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 28-26) to Round Valley, No. 11 Benson of 3-0 (25-22, 25-12, 25-12) to Scottsdale Prep, and No. 10 Kingman Academy of 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-18) to PCDS. The ratings were 6.9433 for Arizona Lutheran, 4.5790 for Red Rock, 4.7216 for Benson, and 5.34444 for Kingman Academy.

Play-in Round

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: A Pima player spikes a kill against Benson on Oct. 29.

The top 24 teams, Numbers 9-24 were involved in the play-in round, at the higher seed Nov. 10. Two lower seeds upset higher seeds in five sets, No. 23 Phoenix Christian over No. 19 Morenci (19-25, 25-15, 24-25, 25-23, 15-13) and No. 18 Saint Augustine Catholic over No. 15 Gilbert San Tan Charter (19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 15-8). Morenci was rated 7.3071 and San Tan Charter 4.0512.

Six other lower seeds were eliminated in three sets apiece, No. 24 Tombstone (25-13, 25-12, 25-21) by Glendale Prep, No. 22 Saint Johns (25-11, 25-8, 25-20) by Arizona Lutheran, No. 21 Phoenix Horizon Honors (25-15, 25-21, 25-9) by Kingman Academy, No. 20 Glendale Desert Heights Prep (25-20, 25-20, 25-20) by Benson, No. 19 Bisbee (25-8, 25-15, 25-11) by Red Rock, and No. 18 Phoenix Valley Lutheran (25-15, 25-20, 25-23) by Veritas Prep. The ratings were minus 2.4574 for Tombstone, minus 1.3448 for Saint Johns, minus 0.8474 for Horizon Honors, 0.2101 for Desert Heights Prep, 1.6508 for Bisbee, and 2.8882 for Valley Lutheran.    

The top eight teams, No. 1 Trivium Prep, No. 2 Scottsdale Christian, No. 3 Pima, No. 4 Chandler Prep, No. 5 Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep, No. 6 Round Valley, No. 7 Scottsdale Prep, and No. 8 PCDS, were idle from play until Nov. 14.

Phoenix Christian – 3, Morenci -2

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci fifth-year volleyball head coach Rhyanna Mennen lays out the strategy, both verbally and with her hands, during a time out.

The “agony of defeat and the thrill of victory were evident, one on either side of the net in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium.

With both teams winning two sets apiece, and after the fifth set was tied seven times, the match came down to the final two points.

Trailing 4-8, Morenci pulled ahead on seven consecutive Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar serves, until a Morenci miscue lost the serve. The Wildcats led 11-9.

A Morenci long hit yielded point No. 10 and a Phoenix Christian kill tied the score at 11-11. Following a Morenci time out, another Phoenix Christian kill gave the visitors a 1-point advantage, but, their wide block knotted the score at 12-12. A long hit gave Morenci a short-lived 13-12 edge. Morenci’s ensuing three errors ended the set in favor of Phoenix Christian. The final tie at 13-13 was broken on a bad Morenci pass. Point 14 was awarded on another Morenci bad pass and point 15 was scored on a bad block.

Morenci played its best set of the season, executing fundamentals well during the initial set. The Wildcats moved underneath the ball, made good passes, landed 13 kills, posted only two bad serves, and had not one ball drop between.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar checks the alignment before serving. Her kill (4-8) gave the Wildcats the serve and they earned seven straight points (11-8) before a bad pass lost the serve (11-9). Phoenix Christian outscored Morenci 6-2 to win the fifth set and advance to the state meet first round on Nov. 14.

It appeared the match would be over in three sets. But, the match is played to the best three of five sets. On the other side of the net, Phoenix Christian started out flat.

“It’s been our MO (modus operandi) all season long,” Phoenix Christian head coach Terry Sutter said.

The Cougars were 3-7 overall, winning 13 of 35 sets, coming into Morenci compared to the 8-4 Wildcats winning 27 of 44 sets.

“Who have they played?” asked an onlooker.

Phoenix Christian finished third in the Metro Region behind Scottsdale Christian and Veritas Prep, and ahead of Phoenix Country Day and Phoenix Basis.

The Cougars (2-2 region) downed Veritas Prep in four sets and Basis in three during region pairings. The two region losses were in three sets to Veritas Prep and Scottsdale Christian.

The other win was in three sets over Gilbert Classical (Oct. 19). The non-region losses were in three sets to Desert Heights Prep (Sept. 23), Arizona Lutheran (Oct. 1), and Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Oct. 27) along with five sets to San Tan Charter (Oct. 5) and Saint Augustine Catholic (Nov. 5).

Phoenix Christian brought a 12-member roster with five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and a freshman.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Candace Forgach-Aguilar sends the ball past Phoenix Christian senior Hannah Trimble (8) and junior Daisey Martinez during a play-in match Nov. 10. The fifth set was tied seven times before Phoenix Christian left Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with a 3-2 win. The No. 15 Cougars succumbed in three sets to No. 2 Scottsdale Christian in the state meet first round Nov. 14.

The Wildcats’ region wins were 3-0 over the Pumas in Bisbee (Sept. 29) and in Morenci (Oct. 29), 3-1 over the Yellow Jackets in Tombstone (Oct. 6) and in Morenci (Oct. 22), 3-0 over the Cowgirls in Willcox (Oct. 13) and in Morenci (Oct. 20), and 3-1 over the Bobcats in Benson (Oct. 27).

Morenci’s region losses were 1-3 to Pima (Oct. 1), 2-3 to Benson (Oct. 8), and 0-3 to the Roughriders in Pima (Oct. 15).

In non-region play, the Wildcats slipped past Saint David (Sept. 22) 3-2 and succumbed in three sets to Phoenix Country Day (Oct. 1).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Devanie Medina goes up for one of two fifth-set hits against Phoenix Christian senior Hannah Trimble (8) and sophomore Nancy Felix (14).

Following the end of the regular season, Pima was ranked No. 4 (14.64.88 rating, 13-2 overall) in the state and first in the East Region (10-0), Morenci No. 10 (7.4226, 8-4) and second (7-3), Benson No. 15 (4.6296, 9-6) and third (6-4), Bisbee No. 19 (1.5108, 7-7) and fourth (4-6), Tombstone No. 24 (minus 2.6262, 3-9) and fifth (1-8), and Willcox No. 29 (minus 7.0308, 2-12) and sixth (1-8).

An 11-member Morenci roster had seniors Candace Forgach-Aguilar, Jadyn Aguilera, Lanea Leonard, and Amaya Sanchez; juniors Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar, Rayla Funari, Viviana Mendez-Draper, and Devanie Medina; sophomores Celina Manuz and Mia Ontiveros; and freshman Alizabeth Aguilar.

Rhyanna Mennen is in her fifth season of coaching the Wildcats.

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