Photo/Gila Herald: Benson middle player Emily Darwin blocks a hit by Duncan junior Lynnie Neilson during pool play. Darwin, along with teammate Kaysen Maakestad, was part of the all-tourney team.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – Saint David’s volleyball squad emerged as the champion of the 2018 Morenci Invitational Tournament on Sept. 8. The Tylene Miller-coached Tigers took an unblemished pool play record into the bracket portion and remained unbeaten for the all-day, 8-team meet.
The Tigers slipped past the host Wildcats in two sets (25-21, 25-23) to leave Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with the first-place award. It was Saint David’s second consecutive title and the seventh time in 17 meets Morenci qualified for the final.
Saint David defeated fourth-seed Globe in two sets (25-15, 25-18) during the semifinals, plus eighth-seed Duncan in two sets (25-14, 25-13) during the quarterfinals.
The Tigers were senior Daisy Merrill; juniors Camilla Freestone, Megan Merrill, Jorja Moore, Jaylyn and Kayla Richardson, and Kyra Trejo; and sophomores Jaelyn Goodman, Goldi Merrill, and Brylee Murray.
Sixth-seed Morenci upset second-seed Benson in three sets (18-25, 25-14, 15-12) during the other semifinal, plus third-seed New Mexico Bayard Cobre in two sets (25-17, 29-27) during the quarterfinals.
Benson slipped past Globe in two sets (25-20, 27-25) for third place. Globe eliminated fifth-seed Miami in two sets (25-18, 25-20), plus Benson ousted Bowie / San Simon 25-23 twice during the other first-round pairings.
Tourney honorees included Saint David juniors Jaylyn and Kyra Richardson, Morenci junior Brigid Silvester and sophomore Hunter Lindsey, Benson’s Emily Darwin and Kaysen Maakestad, Globe senior Esmeralda Guardado and junior Nancy Phillips, Cobre’s Sierra Dean, Miami’s Anna-Marie Meredith, Bowie / San Simon senior Gaby Gamboa, and Duncan junior Kaitlyn Lunt.
Darwin, Meredith, and Jaylin Richardson were also tabbed for individual honors in 2017.
Afternoon bracket seeds were decided by morning round-robin pool play results.
The Saint David Tigers went 7-0, the Benson Bobcats 5-2, both the Cobre Indians and Globe Tigers 4-3, the Miami Vandals and host Wildcats both 3-4, the Bowie / San Simon Cougars 2-5, and the Duncan Wildkats 0-7.
Saint David topped Duncan 30-20, Morenci 30-22, Globe 30-15, Cobre 30-22, Benson 30-25, Miami 29-28, and Bowie / San Simon 30-12.
Benson bested Bowie / San Simon 30-28, Cobre 30-24, Duncan 30-16, Morenci 29-23, and Miami 30-21; Cobre felled Morenci 30-24, Globe 30-16, Bowie / San Simon 30-28, and Duncan 30-14; and Globe defeated Benson 30-26, Miami 30-24, Bowie / San Simon 30-22, and Duncan 30-10.
Miami slipped past Duncan 30-29, Morenci 30-21, and Cobre 30-24; Morenci stopped Bowie / San Simon 30-23, Duncan 30-22; and Globe 30-17; and Bowie / San Simon downed Miami 30-19 and Duncan 30-21.
Last season, third-seeded Saint David downed fifth-seeded Morenci 25-20 and 25-23 for the title.
Saint David edged second seed Benson 25-23 and 27-25 during the semifinal and ousted sixth seed New Mexico Lordsburg by identical 25-13 set scores during the first round of bracket play.
Morenci upset top seed Cobre 25-21 and 25-22 during the other semifinal and came from behind to eliminate fourth seed Miami in three sets (19-25, 25-23, 15-12) to advance into the championship match.
Benson downed Cobre 25-20 and 25-19 to finish third.
The 2016 meet had Benson finishing first, there was only round robin play in 2015, and Morenci was first 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.
This week, Saint David (12-1 overall, 2-1 seeding record, 1-1 1A South Region) visits Sells Tohono O’odham for a region match Tuesday, Sept. 11, and hosts Fort Thomas Friday, Sept. 14.
Bowie / San Simon (6-6, 4-0, 2-0 1A South Region) visits The Academy of Tucson in region play Sept. 11, hosts Tucson Immaculate Heart for a region match Thursday, Sept. 13, and is at Morenci Saturday, Sept. 15.
Miami (6-6, 3-1, 2-0 2A South Region) hosts Eloy Santa Cruz Monday, Sept. 10, plus region member Tucson Saint Augustine Catholic Sept. 11, and visits Tucson San Miguel Catholic for a region match Sept. 13.
Globe (7-6, 2-1, 1-1 2A South Region) hosts Tucson Desert Christian in region play Sept. 11 and Phoenix Bourgade Catholic on Sept. 12 and visits Saint Augustine in region play Wednesday, Sept. 13.
Benson (9-5, 3-1, 0-0 2A East Region) has a pair of region road matches, in Pima on Sept. 11 and in Bisbee on Sept. 13.
Cobre (6-5 overall) brought a 2-1 record to the Morenci meet and is at neighboring Lordsburg on Sept. 11.
Morenci (6-8, 1-3, 0-0 2A East Region) hosts Willcox in region play Sept. 11, visits Pima for region play Sept. 13, and hosts Bowie / San Simon on Sept. 15.
“I felt we would be in the championship match,” third-year head coach Rhyanna Mennen said citing her observations midway through round robin play. The Wildcats had the right combination of players on the court during the rest of the round. Senior Dominique Garcia and junior Angel Ontiveros were on the varsity roster at the start last season with nine other student-athletes, including seven from the Class of 2017, filling out the team.
The Sandi French-coached Wildkats opened the season at Bowie / San Simon with a 3-set (12-25, 13-25, 6-25) loss Aug. 28. The initial home and region match with the Superior Panthers resulted in a 3-0 (21-25, 22-25, 16-25) loss Aug. 30.
Week two had the Wildkats visiting the Gilbert Arete Prep Chargers for a region match, a 3-1 (16-25, 26-24, 16-25, 23-25) loss Sept. 4 and a 3-1 (25-15, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16) home win over the Academy of Tucson Lynx Sept. 6.
Duncan (1-11 overall, 1-3 seeding, 0-2 1A East Region) has a pair of region matches this week, at Winkelman Hayden on Tuesday, Sept. 11, and welcomes Cibecue on Wednesday, Sept. 12.