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Arizona girls volleyball playoff preview: Arcadia looks to close the dealOct 29, 2012 Coach Josh Olshan figures it is the next logical step for the Arcadia (Phoenix) girls volleyball program. And he has a three-part plan to get there.
The Titans made last year's Division II state title match before falling 28-26, 25-20, 25-21 to Sunnyslope in a gut-wrenching back-and-forth battle.
Making the finals was a long process after coming up short in the semifinals four times in the previous five seasons.
"It's absolutely the next step for us," Olshan said. "It took us a while to get over that (semifinal) hump and hopefully the next step doesn't take as long to achieve."
Arcadia, which hosts Queen Creek in Tuesday's Division II first-round matchup, has the talent — led by three Division I scholarship athletes — to get there. Especially with a field that seemingly is more wide open than previous years.
"I truly believe there isn't that great team that is above all the rest," he said. "I think there are nine teams that can win it. There have been a lot of upsets this season so you can see it in the matches."
Arcadia is 28-4 overall and 17-1 in regular season matches, behind the play of setter and opposite hitter Stacey Benton, middle hitter Izzy Miller and setter and opposite hitter Jensen Barton.
Miller is headed to Boise State, Barton to Northern Arizona and Benton to Dartmouth.
While they will be off to different campuses in the fall, they all have a few more weeks left together at Arcadia, where their different intangibles bring the Titans together.
"They really go well together and bring out the best in everyone else," Olshan said. "Jensen and Stacey are the best setters in the state."
While having two elite setters gives the team an advantage, it is not unique. Many teams have two very good ball-handlers.
What makes this team is special is the other stuff.
Barton's knowledge of the game and her court awareness make her essentially another coach in the floor. Miller is not only respected but loved by her teammates, which brings weight to her words. And when things are a little off, Benton brings a white-hot intensity that brands the rest of the team and gets Arcadia on track.
"They are so very different, but at the same time have the same winning attitude," Olshan said. "They just bring it in different ways. I know one way or another one of them will get us through any trouble with the way they approach the sport."
Here is a look at all of the postseason brackets:
Arizona Girls Volleyball Playoff Preview
Favorite: No. 1 Horizon (Scottsdale) – Last year's runner-up finish notwithstanding, this program is on quite a run and it probably won't stop this season.
Contender: No. 2 Hamilton (Chandler) – Its only two in-state defeats came against Horizon and were quick two-setters in tournament play, but if anyone is going to make a run at Horizon it is the Huskies.
Darkhorse: No. 3 Xavier College Prep (Phoenix) – With the announcement that it is Tim McHale's last season after 23 years, the Gators are going to want to send him out on top.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 11 Desert Vista (Phoenix) at No. 6 Chaparral (Scottsdale).
Favorite: No. 1 Flagstaff – Top-seeded for a reason. Many of the Valley teams haven't seen this squad but will get to know them in a hurry.
Contender: No. 2 Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale) – This is the Saints best team since the 2007 squad that won it all.
Darkhorse: No. 4 Catalina Foothills (Tucson) – Most of its defeats have come against quality Division I programs.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 11 Queen Creek (Queen Creek) at No. 6 Arcadia (Phoenix).
Favorite: No. 1 Campo Verde (Gilbert) – Started the year by beating D-III defending champion Seton Catholic and haven't looked back since.
Contender: No. 2 Tuba City – Lost three in a row, including two to Flagstaff, in September but haven't loss since — including a win over Monument Valley to avenge only other power ranking match.
Darkhorse: No. 7 Catalina (Tucson) – The class of D-III Tucson area programs has a chance to show what it can do against the northern schools.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 11 Seton Catholic (Chandler) at No. 6 Verrado (Buckeye).
Favorite: No. 2 Valley Christian (Chandler) – The Trojans haven't won it since 2007, but have the firepower to change that in 2012.
Contender: No. 1 Northwest Christian (Phoenix) – The defending champs are back as the top seed.
Darkhorse: No. 4 Thatcher –This program is always there at the end (four straight finals appearances with one championship in 2008) and will have to avenge a late-season loss to NW Christian to get back to the finals.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 9 Pinon at No. 8 Tempe Prep.
Favorite: No. 1 Veritas Prep (Phoenix) – The top-seeded team didn't go past three sets in any of its Section III regular season matches.
Contender: No. 2 Joy Christian (Glendale) – Despite being in the same section as Veritas, never played them in regular season action. Only regular season defeat came against NW Christian.
Darkhorse: No. 3 Valley Lutheran (Phoenix) – Round out the top teams with another Section III program.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 12 Phoenix Christian at No. 5 Desert Christian (Tucson).
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is an 18-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at email@example.com or 480-272-2449.