Blogs / Features
Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Horizon maintains composure, wins D-I volleyball titleNov 6, 2012
By Don Ketchum
Playing for the Division I girls volleyball championship is a cool place to be, and winning it all is even better.
So said Phoenix Horizon coach Valorie McKenzie after her top-seeded team captured the crown on Tuesday night (Nov. 6) with a four-set win over third-seeded rival Phoenix Xavier at Gilbert Mesquite High.
There were a few moments of uncertainty after Horizon won the first two sets 25-21 and 25-23, but dropped the third 22-25.
The Huskies won the first two sets in last year’s title match against Gilbert High, but Gilbert won three in a row to take home the trophy.
And Horizon knew that earlier on Tuesday, Phoenix Arcadia won the first two sets of the Division II title match, only to lose three in a row to Flagstaff.
“We lost the third set, but we were still in that game,’’ said McKenzie, whose team had defeated Xavier in 10 of 12 previous sets this season, including a pair of tournaments.
Before the fourth set, McKenzie told her players, “It’s time to be dominant, be aggressive. This is a cool place to be. So they started being more aggressive.’’
Horizon (43-3) trailed 19-18 in that fourth set after Xavier (34-11) scored off a pair of blocks. Then the Huskies finished off the Gators with a 7-1 run for a 25-20 win. Junior outside hitter Sierra Nobley led the way with a couple of key kills.
Senior outside hitter Nikki Hess also had a strong game, as did junior middle blockers Jensen Cunningham and Tess Clark and sophomore libero Jordan Anderson.
Xavier couldn’t quite achieve its goal of winning the title for outgoing coach Tim McHale, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family, but the Gators gave it their all.
Senior middle blocker Megan O’Sullivan had a productive game for Xavier, and freshman Khalia Lanier provided several examples of good things to come for her and the program with her powerful kills and long reach that resulted in several big blocks.
“It’s hard for me to put into words what this particular group of players and coaches has meant to me,’’ said McHale, trying his best not to let tears flow.
“Horizon is one of the biggest, most physical teams I’ve seen and they played well. You have to take your hat off to them.’’