Blogs / Features
Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com email@example.com
Goldwater VB Festival: Horizon defeats Mtn. Ridge for titleOct 6, 2012
Horizon's road to a Division I girls volleyball title has been a highly successful one so far, but the Huskies found a new competitior for that title a month from now that they got to know last season.
Horizon battled back from a 1-set deficit and captured two tight games Saturday afternoon to rally past upset-mined Mountain Ridge in the championship match of the annual Goldwater Festival at Goldwater High School. Scores were 23-25, 25-22 and 15-13.
Horizon (32-3) posted an 8-1 record in the two-day tournament, losing its first match of the year to an Arizona opponent (Xavier) on Saturday morning. The Huskies showed their mettle by winning their final pool matches of the day and took care of Hamilton in the semis in a difficult two-set triumph. Horizon has won both Arizona Invitationals its competed in this season. The Huskies won the Westwood's Tournament of Champions last month.
It took time for Horizon to adjust from beating Hamilton and its more deliberate, power game to the quick approach adopted by Mountain Ridge coach Jennifer McGauley's team. Quick passing and attacking caught Horizon a step slow in blocking. Through most of the first two sets Mountain Ridge had the formula for an upset.
"They have the quickest offense Arizona has," Horizon coach Valorie McKenzie said. "We didn't do a good job blocking early. They got after us."
The deciding set -- short as it was played to 15 -- managed to feature several lengthy momentum swings. Horizon ran off five straight points for 5-1 lead, using four kills and a block to seemingly take control. Six of the next seven points went Mountain Ridge's way. A Horizon timeout didn't stop the run and the Huskies were reeling, down 9-6 until Sierra Nobley stopped the run with one of her nine kills. That kill began a 7-0 Horizon run, served by the Huskies' Lauren Conati.
Mountain Ridge, which swept Xavier in its semifinal match, hung tough. The Mountain Lions fought off three match-ponts and pulled within 14-13 after a Horizon hitting error. Nobley's last kill finished the match.
"I told them during our timeout that it was all about character," McKenzie said. "It's fun to play against teams that push us to the limit. We played really good defense the last set, especially in the back row."
Nikki Hess led Horizon in kills with 10 and Christine Johnson chipped in with five.Libero Jordan Anderson had 15 digs and Nobley and Marinda Killeen eight apiece.
McGauley was pleased with the results of the two-day tourney, knowing beyond a doubt now her team can play with any team in D-I. During the tourney Mountain Ridge faced Hamilton, Gilbert, Xavier and Horizon. They'd already faced Centennial, Basha and Desert Vista so they've confronted just about all the contenders.
"Last year in this tournament we got smoked," McGauley said. "It helped us for the rest of the season. Horizon beat us bad in this tournament last year. We ended up playing them again in the (state) semifinals and the match was just like this one... We hope to get another chance against them and win next time."
Mountain Ridge was led in attacking by by McKenna Witt with 10 kills. Twin sister Madison Witt and Kami Zoller added eight kills apiece. Mary Claire Tuohy led the defensive effort with 29 digs. Kayley Siekmann had 18 assists and Rachel Parsons 17.
The deciding set -- short as it was played to 15 -- managed to feature several lengthy momentum swings.