Wildkats face Blue Devils in Elfrida on Thursday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Freshman Emily Kempton, left, records a kill against Hayden defenders, breaking a 7-7 fifth set tie. Duncan went on to outscore the Lobos 7-3 to win the set 15-10 and the match 3-2. The No. 22 Wildkats (3-3 seeding) topped the No. 38 Kearny Ray Bearcats (1-9) in three sets on Monday, Oct. 11. Duncan faces higher-ranked Valley Union in El Frida on Thursday, Oct. 14.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

DUNCAN – “I wish they wouldn’t go to five sets,” said a Duncan fan following a 5-set win over Winkelman Hayden last week. It was no sooner said than it came to pass in the next match. Duncan topped the visiting Kearny Ray Bearcats in three sets during a rescheduled match on Oct. 11.

Duncan averaged one match per week with two-thirds of the regular season gone. This week, the seventh week, the Sandy French-coached Wildkats have two.

“We have three tough opponents in a row,” she said. Also looming ahead are Top 16 teams Fort Thomas (No. 5) and Saint David (No. 8). The Blue Devils have won 15-of-36 sets, the Fort Thomas Apaches 30-37, and the Saint David Tigers 27-50.

The No. 22 Wildkats (4-3 overall, minus 5.0076 rating, 2-0 South Region) head to Elfrida for a region pairing with the No. 17 Valley Union Blue Devils (5-6, minus 1.1658, 2-0 South Region) on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Valley Union is 4-2 versus 1A opponents, defeating Cibecue 3-0 on Sept. 3, Saint David 3-1 in region play on Sept. 28, San Simon 3-0 on Oct. 5, and San Manuel 3-1 on Oct. 7. The losses were in five sets to Saint David on Sept. 24 and in three sets to Fort Thomas on Oct. 1.

The Blue Devils have also downed Bisbee 3-1 (Sept. 2) and fallen to Benson (Aug. 30) and to Willcox (Sept. 7) in three sets plus in five sets to Tombstone (Sept. 14) and to Bisbee (Sept. 23).

Valley Union hosts Patagonia for a region match on Oct. 12.

The Wildkats are on a 3-match win streak, also slipping past Cibecue 15-13 during set five to take the road pairing Oct. 1 and Hayden 15-10 during set five at home Oct. 5.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan leadoff server Kierra Lacey serves the ball against Hayden. The Wildkats had a serve percentage of 88 (102-116) and went 25-25 in set one versus Ray.

In Cibecue, the Wildkats won the second (26-24) and fourth (25-11) while Wildcats took the first (26-24) and third (25-20) sets. Against Hayden, the Lobos won the first two (25-9, 25-18) while the Wildkats prevailed in the third (25-16) and fourth (25-15) sets.

Duncan’s other win was also in five sets, in San Simon during the season opener on Sept. 1. The Wildkats won the first (25-23), fourth (25-20), and fifth (15-8) while the Longhorns won the second (26-24) and third (25-23) sets.

The losses have each been in four sets, to Hayden (12-25, 25-23, 12-25, 13-25) Sept. 7, to San Simon (27-25, 16-25, 19-25, 23-25) Sept. 13, and to Fort Thomas (25-17, 21-25, 17-25, 14-25) Sept. 28.

Duncan’s 10-member squad includes seniors Nikki Golanka, Kierra Lacey, and Kiley McGrath; juniors Kaylee Kempton and Kyanna Lacey; sophomores Karly Coats, Aubrey Evans, and Rachel Sumner; and freshmen Remia Contreras and Emily Kempton.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Kiley McGrath passes the ball to a front-row teammate.

To start the week, the South Region standings were No. 5 Fort Thomas (10-1, 8.9548, 1-0 region) first, No. 17 Valley Union (5-6, minus 1.36-12) second, No. 22 Duncan third, No. 8 Saint David (8-4, 4.4892, 0-2) fourth, No. 26 San Simon (2-6, minus 6.4782, 0-1) fifth, No. 34 Patagonia (1-7, minus 11.8423, 0-0) sixth, and No. 37 Cibecue (1-7, minus 14.0997, 0-2) seventh.

The Top 16 ranked 42 1A teams on Oct. 12 were No. 1 Heber Mogollon (9-0, 15.3911, 7-0 Central Region), No. 2 Rock Point (8-0, 15.3214, 3-0 North Region), No. 3 Tempe Prep (10-0, 13.9052, 1-0 East Region), No. 4 Joseph City (10-3, 8.4623, 8-2 Central Region), No. 5 Fort Thomas, No. 6 Tec Nos Pos Red Mesa (6-1, 7.3413, 4-1 North Region), No. 7 Anthem Prep (12-2, 5.1007, 8-0 West Region), No. 8 Saint David, No. 9 Williams (7-4, 4.3083, 5-1 Central Region), No. 10 Scottsdale Cicero Prep (5-5, 2.5530, 2-1 East Region), No. 11 Saint Michael (6-5, 1.6918, 4-2 North Region), No. 12 Tucson Desert Christian (8-3, 1.0385, 3-0 Tucson Region), No. 13 Phoenix North Valley Christian (8-7, minus 0.6371, 4-1 West Region), No. 14 Chandler Lincoln Prep (6-4, minus 1.0006, 2-0 East Region), No. 15 Colorado City El Capitan (7-3, minus 1.2711, 1-2 North Region), and No. 16 Ash Fork (4-5, minus 1.3209, 3-5 Central Region).

The initial Top 16 rankings for then 38 teams on Sept. 28 were No. 1 Tempe Prep (8-0 seeding, 14.9503 rating), No. 2 Mogollon (7-0, 13.7828), No. 3 Rock Point (6-0, 11.5302), No. 4 Saint David (5-2, 6.3939), No. 5 Joseph City (5-3, 5.4183), No. 6 Cicero Prep (4-2, 5.3186), No. 7 Fort Thomas (7-1, 5.269), No. 8 Anthem Prep (8-2, 4.1022), No. 9 Saint Michael (5-3, 1.4691), No. 10 Williams (5-4, 1.1676), No. 11 Desert Christian (3-2, 1.0335), No. 12 Red Mesa (2-1, 0.0722), No. 13 Lincoln Prep (5-4, minus 0.5912), No. 14 North Valley Christian (4-5, minus 2.4882), No. 15 San Simon (2-2, minus 3.0423), and No. 16 Winkelman Hayden (3-5, minus 3.7920).

Wildkats – 3, Bearcats – 0

The visitors served first, but a net serve gave the first point to the hosts. Duncan went ahead 11-0 before a ball handling error yielded a point for the Bearcats. The Wildkats used four additional servers before winning 25-5 and notching 25 flawless serves. The next two sets would have 11 servers totaling 16 errors during 66 serves.

For the match, the Wildkats posted percentages of 89 in digs (63-71), 84 in attacking (87-104) with 34 kills, 82 (75-91) in serves with 26 aces, and 80 in blocks (4-5).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan defenders Kaylee Kempton, left, and Karly Coats, right, go up to block a Hayden hit.

Duncan trailed by two early in the second set before scoring a point. The set was tied four times (5-5, 7-7, 11-11, 14-14) before the Wildkats took the lead for good on an opponent passing error. The closest the visitors came was one, 17-16, on a long Duncan serve, but could not tie or regain the lead, falling to the hosts 25-20.

The third set was closer with 12 ties, the last at 21-21, but two errors along with a Kiley McGrath ace serve and kill gave Duncan the set-deciding points.

Duncan was ranked No. 22 (3-3, minus 5.0222, 2-0 South Region) and had won 12-27 sets prior to the 3-set (25-5, 25-20, 25-21) win over the No. 38 Bearcats.

Prior to the match, the No. 38 Bearcats (1-9, minus 14.5656, 0-2 East Region) had won 6-33 sets, including a 3-set win over Cibecue on Sept. 21. Three 4-set losses were to Superior (Sept. 15), Cibecue (Oct. 2), and San Manuel (Oct. 9) along with six 3-set losses to Globe (Aug. 31), Morenci (Sept. 2), Winkelman Hayden (Sept. 9), Chandler Lincoln Prep (Sept. 13), Bisbee (Sept. 16), and Tempe Prep (Sept. 23).

Wildkats – 3, Lobos – 2

A Duncan rotation error knotted the fifth set score at 7-7, but Emily Kempton’s ensuing well-placed hit gave the hosts the lead for good. The Wildkats outscored the Lobos 7-3 during the remainder of the set to win 15-10 and take the match 3-2.

Except for a lone tie at 15-15 promptly lost via a net violation, Duncan trailed throughout the first set, falling 9-25.

The second set, an 18-25 loss, also started with a deficit, but the Wildkats were able to tie thrice, at 5-5, 6-6, and 7-7 before the Lobos took the lead for good. Duncan got within one, 9-10, but could not tie or get closer as Hayden pulled away.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jubilant Wildkats look to their bench to celebrate with teammates. Duncan slipped past Hayden in five sets on Oct. 5.

Set three had the Wildkats with a 3-0 early advantage. There were four ties (7-7, 8-8, 10-10, 12-12) before a serve receive error gave them the lead for good. The final score was 25-16

A 2-2 fourth set tie was broken by miscommunication of who would field the ball. Duncan received the point and never trailed thereafter, winning 25-15.

As a team, the Wildkats posted percentages of 88 (102-116) in serves with 28 aces, 85 in attacking (112-132) with 40 kills and in digs (85-100), and 70 (30-43) in serve receives.

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