Region leading Eagles to descend on Safford on Monday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: On-court teammates offer congratulations to each other at mid-court after a positive play. The No. 12 Bulldogs welcome No. 4 Thatcher to Norma Bellamy Gymnasium Monday, Oct. 3. Safford has an active 5-match win streak thus far.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

SAFFORD – The Kim Orr-coached Thatcher Eagles will descend on the Robert Abalos-coached Safford Bulldogs for a South Region match on Monday, Oct. 3.

Thatcher brings a lot more court time for its team members than the Bulldogs have so far. The No. 4 ranked Eagles (16-12 overall, 8-1 seeding, 2-0 region) have won 36-of-46 seeding sets plus 20-40 tourney sets compared to 22-28 and 14-28, respectively, by the No. 12 Bulldogs (13-7, 7-1, 1-1). The Norma Bellamy Gymnasium-held match is at 6 p.m., preceded by junior varsity (5 p.m.) and freshmen (4 p.m.) contests.

Other region pairings on Oct. 3 are Tucson Tanque Verde at Tucson San Miguel Catholic, Tucson Empire at Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian, and Tucson Catalina at Tucson Sabino.

Region matches the rest of the week include Empire at Catalina on Tuesday, Oct. 4 along with Sabino at San Miguel, Tanque Verde at Pusch Ridge, and Palo Verde Magnet at Thatcher on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Thatcher Eagles

The Eagles have participated in 10 seeding matches and 18 tourney matches during three meets, posting 8-2 and 8-10 records, respectively.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford student section backs the volleyball team during home matches, providing encouragement, approval, and applauding good plays.

Thatcher defeated Sahuarita Walden Grove 3-0 (25-11, 25-13, 25-16) on Aug. 31, Snowflake 3-2 on Sept. 1, Tucson Mica Mountain 3-2 on Sept. 7, Pusch Ridge 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-23) on Sept. 12, Pima 3-0 (25-12, 25-10, 25-11) on Sept. 14, Tanque Verde 3-0 (25-12, 25-10, 25-16) on Sept. 20, San Miguel 3-0 on Sept. 27, and Sabino 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-13) on Sept. 29.

The visitors also have seeding losses of 2-3 (25-9, 25-22, 22-25, 27-29, 10-15) to Tucson Canyon del Oro (Sept. 6) and 0-3 (19-25, 20-25, 20-25) to Chandler Valley Christian (Sept. 17).

In the three 2-day meets, Thatcher split 14 2-set matches plus won 1-4 in three sets, most against teams with larger school enrollments.

A two-day Chandler meet paired the Eagles against 6A Premier Region Gilbert Perry, 6A East Valley Region Mesa Mountain View, and 5A San Tan Region Gilbert Campo Verde on Sept. 2. The next day, the opponents were 6A Central Region Mesa Desert Ridge, 6A Premier Region Chandler, 5A San Tan Region Queen Creek Casteel, and Campo Verde. The Eagles left with a 1-6 mark.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford junior 5-9 hitter Mia Abalos dispatches the ball with authority toward the opponent.

Thatcher fell 0-2 (15-25, 18-25) to Perry, 1-2 (25-21, 15-25, 10-25) to Mountain View, downed Campo Verde 2-0 (25-18, 25-15) on the first day. The Eagles succumbed 1-2 (25-23, 14-25, 8-25) to Desert Ridge, 0-2 (23-25, 21-25) to Chandler, 0-2 (22-25, 12-25) to Casteel, and 1-2 (20-25, 25-23, 10-15) to Campo Verde on the second day.

The Eagles went 3-2 during the 2-day Mesa Red Mountain meet, facing 6A Premier Region Chandler Hamilton, 6A East Valley Region Mesa Westwood, Alaska Anchorage 4A Inlet Conference A.J. Dimond on Sept. 9, and  6A East Valley Region Mesa and 6A Central Region Phoenix Desert Vista on Sept. 10.

Thatcher fell 0-2 (24-26, 16-25) to Hamilton, defeated Westwood 2-0 and Dimond 2-0 (25-23, 25-12), fell 0-2 (19-25, 20-25) to Mesa, and defeated Desert Vista 2-1 (13-25, 27-25, 15-10).

The 2-day Benjamin Franklin tourney resulted in a 4-2 record, pitted against 3A South Central Region Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood and 3A East Region Snowflake on Sept. 30; along with 3A East Sky Region Queen Creek American Leadership, 3A North Region Tuba City, 4A East Sky Region Gilbert North American Leadership, and 5A Central Valley Buckeye Youngker on Oct. 1.

Thatcher posted four 2-0 wins, defeating ALA-Ironwood (14-15, 25-15), ALA-Queen Creek (25-21, 29-27), Tuba City (25-17, 25-23), and Youngker (25-20, 27-25) as well as two 0-2 losses to Snowflake (9-25, 23-25), ALA-Gilbert North (19-25, 17-25).

The Eagles have six more regular season seeding matches left, against Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 5), at Pusch Ridge (Oct. 11), against Catalina (Oct. 13), at Empire (Oct. 18) and Tanque Verde (Oct. 20), and against Blue Ridge (Oct. 22).

Thatcher’s varsity team is seniors Madden Bingham, Molly Brown, Matti Lopeman, Marley Motes, Keyera Smith, Makenzie Sweet, and Ashlyn Thompson along with juniors Avery Bingham, Macey Carter, Makenzi Ferrin, Maci Layton, and Marli Lopeman.

Safford Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have a 7-1 seeding record and went a combined 6-6 during two tourneys.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford volleyball coach Robert Abalos gives instruction.

Safford won five consecutive seeding matches before falling in four sets (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 16-25) at Tanque Verde (Sept. 22). The streak included wins of 3-0 over Tucson Cholla (Aug. 21), 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-23) over Sahuarita (Sept. 6), 3-1 (25-13, 25-23, 22-25, 25-18) over Sabino (Sept. 8), 3-2 (22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-13, 15-7) over New Mexico Silver (Sept. 13), and 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-10) over Pima (Sept. 19).

Safford also has seeding wins of 3-0 over Tucson Amphitheater (Sept. 26) and 3-0 (25-12, 25-9, 25-22) over Catalina (Sept. 27).

The Bulldogs went 3-3 during the Goodyear Estrella Foothills Wolves Classic on Sept. 2-3. Safford fell 0-2 to 4A Skyline Region Surprise Paradise Honors, 0-2 (7-25, 15-25) to 5A Desert West Region Buckeye Verrado, and 1-2 to 5A Central Valley Buckeye on the first day. Three consecutive wins were posted in the second day, 2-0 over 5A Desert Valley Avondale Westview, 2-1 (26-24, 21-25, 15-13) over 2A Metro Region Scottsdale Prep, and 2-0 over Buckeye.

The Graham County girls also went 3-3 during the Snowflake tourney on Sept. 16-17. Safford downed 3A North Region Fort Defiance Window Rock 2-0 (29-27, 25-16) and 2A North Region Saint Johns 2-1 (18-25, 25-16, 15-11), before falling 0-2 (19-25, 21-25) to 3A East Region host Snowflake on the first day. A 1-2 (15-25, 27-25, 13-15) loss to 3A East Region Lakeside Blue Ridge, a 2-0 (25-22, 25-11) win over 3A East Holbrook, and a 0-2 (22-25, 24-26) loss to 3A North Kayenta Monument Valley occurred on the second day.

Safford fields seniors Brianna Camarena, Jordyn Espinoza, Rene Holcomb, Emma Jarvis, Jaylenn Jurado, Paige Perea, and Jazzy Rios; juniors Mia Abalos, Jaidyn Espinoza, Marlena Gonzales, Jaidyn Mortensen; sophomores Breanna Arbizo and Marley Jurado; and freshman Hannah Schade.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Breanna Arbizo checks the defense and concentrates on getting the ball over the net. The Safford sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist is one of several Bulldogs able to put the ball in play.

The Bulldogs have eight seeding matches as well as a 2-day tourney on its regular season remaining. Safford hosts Flowing Wells (Oct. 5), San Miguel (Oct. 11), and Pusch Ridge (Oct. 13), visits Sabino (Oct. 18), hosts Empire (Oct. 20) and Blue Ridge (Oct. 22), visits Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 24), and hosts Snowflake (Oct. 26). The tourney is the Florence Invitational beginning on Oct. 7.

3A Top 10 Rankings:

The statewide 3A rankings listed on Sept. 30 have East Region Snowflake No. 1 (9-1 seeding, 20.0310 rating), South Central Region Chandler Valley Christian No. 2 (10-1, 19.7139), North Central Region Phoenix Northwest Christian No. 3 (8-1, 17.3197), South Region Thatcher No. 4 (8-2, 16.9275), East Region Lakeside Blue Ridge No. 5 (8-1, 15.2204), West Region Buckeye Odyssey Institute No. 6 (10-1, 11.5462), South Central Region Gilbert Christian No. 7 (8-3, 11.1714), North Central Region Camp Verde No. 8 (8-2, 10.4359), North Region Tuba City No. 9 (3-1, 10.2830), and East Region Winslow No. 10 (6-3, 9. 2389).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Paige Perea readies a serve during a recent match. The junior libero is in the regular rotation for the Bulldogs.

3A South Region Standings:

The 9-member region standings are the Thatcher Eagles (17-11 overall, 8-2 seeding, 2-0 region) first, the Tanque Verde Hawks  (12-3, 6-3, 1-0) second, the Pusch Ridge Christian Lions (6-14, 4-5, 2-0) third, the Sabino Sabercats (17-5, 8-3, 1-1) fourth, the Safford Bulldogs (13-7, 7-1, 1-1) fifth, the Empire Ravens (4-11, 3-7, 1-1) sixth, the San Miguel Catholic Vipers (2-8, 2-8, 0-1) seventh, the Catalina Trojans (1-6, 1-6, 0-2) eighth, and the Palo Verde Magnet Titans (1-15, 0-11, 0-2) ninth.

The region member state rankings as of Sept. 30 are No. 4 Thatcher (8-2 seeding, 16.9275 rating), No. 11 Tanque Verde (6-3, 9.1110), No. 12 Safford (7-1, 8.8898), No. 16 Sabino (8-3, 6.0915), No. 29 Pusch Ridge (4-5, minus 0.5612), No. 32 Empire (3-7, minus 2.9669), No. 41 San Miguel (2-8, minus 10.3185), No. 43 Catalina (1-6, minus 12.5789), and No. 44 Palo Verde Magnet (0-11, minus 16.4225).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jaidyn Mortensen blocks a hit during a recent home match. The Safford junior 5-9 middle hitter has recorded numerous blocks this season.

In region matches played to date, Tanque Verde has a 3-1 win over Safford (Sept. 22), Thatcher has 3-0 wins over San Miguel (Sept. 27) and Sabino (Sept. 29), Pusch Ridge has 3-0 wins over Palo Verde Magnet (Sept. 27) and Catalina (Sept. 29), Safford has a 3-0 win over Catalina (Sept. 27), and Empire has a 3-0 win over Palo Verde Magnet (Sept. 29).

The remaining region matches include Thatcher at Pusch Ridge and San Miguel at Safford on Oct. 11; Catalina at Thatcher and Pusch Ridge at Safford on Oct. 13; Tanque Verde at Sabino on Oct. 17; Empire at Thatcher, San Miguel at Pusch Ridge, Safford at Sabino, and Tanque Verde at Palo Verde Magnet on Oct. 18; Thatcher at Tanque Verde, Empire at Safford, Catalina at San Miguel, and Palo Verde Magnet at Sabino on Oct. 20; Tanque Verde at Catalina, Safford at Palo Verde Magnet, and San Miguel at Empire on Oct. 24; and Empire at Tanque Verde, Palo Verde Magnet at San Miguel, and Sabino at Pusch Ridge on Oct. 26.

Thatcher JV (7-2) at Safford JV (6-1)

 The Eagles have 2-set wins over Walden Grove (Aug. 31), Mica Mountain (Sept. 7), Pusch Ridge (Sept. 12), Pima (Sept. 14), Tanque Verde (Sept. 20), San Miguel (Sept. 27), and Sabino (Sept. 29).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford junior setter Malena Gonzales (1) puts the ball up for a possible assist for a teammate.

Thatcher’s losses were in two sets to Snowflake (Sept. 1) and in three sets to Canyon del Oro (Sept. 6).

The Eagles have five scheduled matches left, against Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 5), at Pusch Ridge (Oct. 11) and Empire (Oct. 18), at Tanque Verde (Oct. 20), and against Blue Ridge (Oct. 22).

Safford has 2-set wins over Cholla (Aug. 30), Sabino (Sept. 8), New Mexico Silver (Sept. 13), Pima (Sept. 19), Amphitheater (Sept. 26), and Fort Thomas (Sept. 30). The Bulldogs’ lone loss was in three sets to Sahuarita (Sept. 6).

Eight matches remain for the Bulldogs, versus Flowing Wells (Oct. 5), San Miguel (Oct. 11), and Pusch Ridge (Oct. 13), at Sabino (Oct. 18), versus Empire (Oct. 20) and Blue Ridge (Oct. 22), at Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 24), and versus Snowflake (Oct. 26).

Thatcher Frosh (8-1) at Safford Frosh (4-2)

Thatcher opened the season with a 3-set win over Walden Grove and added 2-set wins over Canyon del Oro, Mica Mountain, Pusch Ridge, Pima, Tanque Verde, San Miguel, and Sabino. The Eagles’ lone loss was in five sets to Snowflake.

Seven matches remain for the Eagles, against Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 5), at Pusch Ridge (Oct. 11), against Catalina (Oct. 13), at Empire (Oct. 18), at Tanque Verde (Oct. 20), and against Blue Ridge (Oct. 22).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Rene Holcomb tips the ball over the net for a point against Sabino. The senior hitter is an integral part of the Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive schemes.

Safford has 2-set wins over Cholla (Aug. 30), Sabino (Sept. 8), Amphitheater (Sept. 26), and Catalina (Sept. 27). The two losses have both been in three sets, to Sahuarita (Sept. 6) and to Pima (Sept. 19).

The Bulldogs have eight matches left, against Flowing Wells (Oct. 5), San Miguel (Oct. 11), and Pusch Ridge (Oct. 13), at Sabino (Oct. 18), against Empire (Oct. 20), and Blue Ridge (Oct. 22), at Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 24), and against Snowflake (Oct. 26).