Arcadia was in an unfamiliar place, while no matter the classification, its opponent was very familiar with the championship match.
Phoenix Sunnyslope won the last three 4A Division I state titles, and picked up where it left off in the new Division II this year with a sweep of Arcadia, 28-26, 25-20, 25-21, on Monday night in the state championship at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Appearing in their first-ever title match, the Titans (31-4) didn't have an answer for the Vikings' defense. They lost any momentum it had after giving up nine straight points in game one fought an uphill battle all night.
"They played so amazing all year, they ran into a juggernaut team that is just playing well," Arcadia coach Josh Olshan said.
Sunnyslope (34-9), which has made its name with strong offensive attack, had a superior defense this season, and it negated Arcadia's big front line.
"I told the girls that I was really nervous about this game," Sunnyslope coach Amber LeTarte said. "I watched Arcadia play against Prescott (in Saturday's semifinal) and I was thinking these girls have improved through the season. They are confident and they were playing great ball."
Sunnyslope beat Arcadia twice during the regular season, the last time more than a month ago.
"You have to be at your best constantly to beat a team that good defensively and that good all-around," Olshan said. "You have to be perfect and we weren't."
The plan was to try and get the ball to leading hitter Izzy Miller (12 kills, 11 digs). Although Jensen Barton (9 kills) and Stacey Benton did get her the ball early, the Sunnyslope defense, led by libero Maeghan Goldman, dug out much of what Arcadia put down.
"When we played them last time, Jensen and Stacey really did some damage to them," Olshan said. "(Monday) we just couldn't get the ball consistently to either of them."
Goldman had 24 digs and Trianna Henry added 22 in cancelling out the Titan attack.
Meanwhile, the Vikings' attack, paced by Andrea Lowrance's 15 kills, was just enough against Arcadia, particularly after the first set.
Arcadia led 14-10 in that game, which worried LeTarte.
But Sunnyslope ran off nine straight points and seemed to gain control, although the Titans did get within a point, 26-25, of winning before Sunnyslope got the last three, capped by a Lowrance kill. She also finished off the Titans in game two.
"I think we did lose our momentum but I think we did what we could do," Miller said.
The Vikings opened up a big lead in the third set, 14-7. But Arcadia chipped away, with Miller and Benton doing much of the damage. Nina Miller got a great block at one point to put the Titans up 21-20. But three unforced errors and a kill and block from Lowrance gave Sunnyslope five straight points and another title.
"It's awesome that we finally got here and got to play our game," Izzy Miller said.