Blogs / Features
Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Highland tops Mesa in VB finale, awaits word on playoffsOct 24, 2012
Highland and Mesa high schools girls volleyball teams couldn't treat Wednesday night's regular-season finale as the end of their season. Every match (win) was crucial since they entered the final week trying to fit in the top 16 of Division I at least and likely needing to be in the 13-14 range to qualify for state next week.
Highland managed to prevail in the finale the hard way -- a 21-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-9 victory over Mesa at Jackrabbit Gym. The question remains is Highland's 11-6 seeding-game record good enough to bump it to as high as 13 or 14 or whatever spot it needs to reach to overcome automatic berths due at least one and maybe two teams from Section 1. Mesa entered the week at No. 15 and went 1-2 in its three matches this week. Highland rested at No. 17 and was 3-0 this week.
"The circumstances are all we're waiting for now," Highland assistant coach Tanner Wade said. "We took care of what we could control this week. ... Tonight we didn't give up. We could have packed it in after the first two, but they kept fighting."
Highland won matches Monday and Tuesday against Skyline and Perrry, respectively. Mesa, still not taking anything for granted after a tough loss to Chandler Tuesday night, played as if a playoff berth was in reach. Mesa finished seeding-game matches with a mark of 13-4, but its lack of a strong schedule and being a member of a tough section will leave Mesa on the outside looking in. Highland is no shoo-in either, despite its trio of wins this week.
The reason, in good part is the automatic berths afforded the top three teams in each of Division I's three sections. Entering play this week, Section I had had only one of its teams in the top 16. If that scenario remains the same when all matches are completed at the end of Thursday, that means teams that finish 15 and 16 will be bumped from state to accomodate the automatic-berth teams from Section 1. The Sectgion I schools earning automatic berths are Millennium, St. Mary's and Westview. Entering play Tuesday, Millennium was 16, St. Mary's 18 and Westview 20. The Arizona Interscholastic Association will announce the final volleyball seedings and state brackets for divisions I through V on Saturday morning (Oct. 27).
Playing a lead role in Highland's comeback Wednesday was senior middle Baylee Little. Little was pretty much upstoppable on the attack (27 kills). She also contributed with 15 digs, six aces and four blocks. Teammate Tristyn Moser added 14 kills and 22 digs and Daeleigh Castile chipped in with 22 digs.
"We just couldn't do what we needed to to close the deal," Mesa coach Any Strawn said of the marathon match. "We played in a very emotional match with Desert Ridge (a Mesa win) on Monday when they honored one of their players who had died. It was mentally draining. We didn't play well last night, but came out tonight and played much better. Just couldn't get it done at the end."
Strawn said she was proud of her team's season (13-4 record in seeding games), but the weakness of Mesa's schedule hurt her team. She has been on the other side and understands it.
"We made the playoffs a few years back and didn't have as good a record, but played a better schedule,' Strawn said. "I thought our schedule would be a little stronger this year than it was."
Senior setter-opposite Kelcee Munk led Mesa with 16 kills and had 20 assists. Middle Dre Farnsworth tormented Highland from the service line with nine aces, added four kills and two blocks. Libero Gloria Tukuafu had 29 digs.