Xavier is back in the big-school volleyball championship match. But it wasn’t easy.
The third-seeded Gators beat No. 2 Hamilton, 20-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-11, 15-11 in the semifinals of the Division I volleyball state tournament on Saturday at Mesquite High School.
Xavier (34-10) will face No. 1 Horizon in the championship match on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Mesquite H.S. The Gators have won four out of the last five big-school (5A-I or Division I) state titles. Last year they were knocked out of the semifinals to eventual-champion Gilbert.
“This was just another Xavier-Hamilton match," Gators coach Tim McHale said. "We have played them a lot over the past few years and every time we get together it is a great match. It is a testament to what (Hamilton coach Sharon Vanis) has built over there. It was everything that we expected. It was going to be a dogfight."
Hamilton (38-5) led throughout game one as the Gators had errors pile up that contributed to a poor showing. Brittany Thomas had the game-winning kill and finished with 17 kills for the match.
Xavier took control early in game two leading by as many as eight points. Hamilton took game three, once again led by Thomas who again had the game winning kill. Xavier cruised in game four, leading throughout and setting up what turned out to be a back and fourth game five. There were five lead changes in game five, but the Gators came out on top with a 6-2 run after a 9-9 tie.
“We made too many mistakes, sometimes great teams force you to make errors that you don’t normally make, and they took us out of our comfort zone a little bit," Vanis said. "Credit Xavier. I told our girls they have nothing to hang their heads about. We had a great season and if you look back at it we did everything we could.”
For the Gators, Mia Teilborg was the catalyst. The junior finished with 21 kills, three blocks and four aces.
“We put it all together and played as a team. Every time we were down we just focused on moving forward and wanting that win.” Teilborg said.
McHale is set to retire after 25 years of coaching after Tuesday’s championship match with top seed Horizon.
“Val’s team is big and physical they have a lot of ball control and are talented at every position. They are going to be a challenge. We are going to have to try and get them out of their system. We are happy to be back and put on a show on Tuesday.” McHale said.