2012 Division II volleyball state tournament
When: Tuesday (first round), Thursday (quarterfinals), Saturday (semifinals) and Nov. 6 (Championship)
Where: First two rounds at higher seed; semifinals (2 p.m. and 4 p.m.) and championship match (5:30 p.m.) at Mesquite H.S.
First round schedule: No. 16 Sunnyslope at No. 1 Flagstaff; No. 9 Paradise Valley at No. 8 Catalina Foothills; No. 12 Deer Valley at No. 5 Agua Fria; No. 13 Ciegena at No. 4 Ironwood Ridge; No. 14 Salpointe Catholic at No. 3 Ironwood; No. 11 Queen Creek at No. 6 Arcadia; No. 10 Liberty at No. 7 Cactus Shadows; No. 15 Canyon del Oro at No. 2 Notre Dame.
Favorite: Notre Dame: Hard to figure if there’s a clear-cut favorite in Division II, with Notre Dame among a half-dozen schools who have plausible cases. The Saints, however, lost one power rankings match all season and wouldn’t play that team again (Ironwood Ridge) unless they met in the championship. The Saints’ side of the bracket sets up nicely for them in terms of playing teams they’ve beaten before, and it’s hard to see James Felton’s squad stubbing its toe until at least the semifinals.
Darkhorse: Cactus Shadows: A 14-3 record in power ranking matches and a strong “strength” puts Cactus Shadows as a No. 7 seed after barely being .500 and not making the playoffs in 2011. It’s been an impressive evolution as Carly Lenzen, Abby Slack, Kelsey Marks, Madi Horn and Jennifer Long have led the Falcons to their winning ways. The problem for the Falcons being that two of three power rankings match losses came at the hands of Notre Dame, and that’s who the Falcons are lined up to face in the quarterfinals. Still, we all know the saying about beating a team three times in a season.
Outlook: How convenient. A year after playing for the state championship as a No. 6 seed, the Titans (17-1) are…..the No. 6 seed, a low figure given their record because of a sluggish “strength” rating of their schedule. The Titans lost to No. 5 Phoenix Sunnyslope in straight sets (albeit close sets) in last year’s championship (after Sunnyslope knocked out Queen Creek in the quarterfinals). This time, Arcadia would have to get through Glendale Ironwood in the quarterfinals and then No. 2 Notre Dame in the semifinals, but the Titans (despite a relatively weak “strength” of schedule in power rankings matches) have played Sunnyslope multiple times (and beat them once) and saw good competition in the Nike Tournament of Champions. Though there was some enjoyment about playing at Grand Canyon University’s new gymnasium during last year’s tournament, it won’t happen this year because of scheduling conflicts. It’s also a bit strange with a Div. II tournament not including the likes of Tucson schools Sabino and Sahuaro, both of whom were left out after the power rankings formula was found to have errors the day before the end of the regular season last week.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.