The Highland boys volleyball roster might look like a team that is a year away from competing at the highest level.
Even coach Vee Hiapo said her team was young. That showed in the third and fourth games on Tuesday night.
But not the other three.
The 10th-seeded Hawks won the first two sets, lost the next two but then finished off the upset of No. 2 Corona del Sol, 15-13, in the decider to advance to the boys volleyball state tournament semifinals on Thursday at Gilbert against No. 6 Brophy. Brophy beat Desert Vista on Tuesday.
Highland and Brophy meet at 5:30 p.m. with Hamilton and Gilbert to follow.
“I just felt we could take them,” said Isaac Turley, one of only two seniors on Highland roster. “I know we have heart and we deserve it.”
“We are young but we know we can take anybody in the state. So we going to go and take out the next team.”
Highland and Corona had played close several times this season but the state quarterfinals is a different story.
Corona appeared to have the momentum after rallying from a 2-0 deficit – something the Aztecs haven’t had to deal with all year.
Highland won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-23. Corona rebounded with 25-17 and 25-22 decisions in the third and fourth set while the Aztecs took advantage of Highland's unforced errors.
“I knew if we played our best game we can beat anyone,” said Jeff Chapman, who led the Hawks with 16 kills. “They played much older than juniors and it showed tonight.”
But as was the case all night, neither team could get any separation and build some confidence. The teams had 11 ties in the final set. Neither team ran off more than three straight points or led by more than two.
“I think our serve receive broke down a little bit,” Corona del Sol coach Brynne Evans said. “I have never coached a more talented team and just thrilled how well they have done this season.”
Hiapo puts plenty of emphasis on her blockers and they came up big early and in the final points. Turley and Ryan Morrison first blocked 6-foot-8 Matt Seall to give the Hawks a 10-9 advantage, then blocked go-to outside hitter Alex Davis for another point.
But Corona got those back and after Sean Hughes, who came back from a rough start on Tuesday, made a kill, tied the game at 13.
Turley got Highland the ball back with a kill and Jacob Wright put the ball away to end the match.
“We haven’t been in that situation, this is our first match where we had to go five (games),” Evans said. “It was definitely a whole new experience for us. We have been able to come back after the first (set) but this was a lot more pressure than we are used to seeing.”