With a little adjustment – mental and strategic – the Brophy boys volleyball team's path in the postseason remains clear – the state quarterfinals are next, against a familiar foe.
After the first set of its first playoff match, that wasn’t such a sure bet.
“We did not come out prepared and they kind of caught us off guard,” setter outside hitter Ryne Benson said. “They really had high energy and we started kind of slow. Then, coming into game two, we thought we should just really focus on the little things to help us win.”
Bounce back the fifth-seeded Broncos did in eliminating Mountain View, 20-25, 25-18, 25-11, 25-17, on Saturday afternoon in the round of 16 of the boys volleyball state tournament.
Brophy travels to Gilbert on Tuesday night for the quarterfinals after the fourth-seeded Tigers blanked No. 20 Chandler, 25-23, 25-17, 27-25, on Saturday. The state semifinals and finals are scheduled for Thursday and May 11, both at Gilbert HS.
Gilbert beat Brophy at home in the state championship match a year ago.
For No. 12-seeded Mountain View, the day started with a convincing sweep of No. 21 Tucson Desert View 25-14, 25-19, 25-16 in the first round. The Toros seemed to carry some of that momentum into the second round match against the host Broncos.
“The biggest thing I told my team was that the team that passes better is going to win this game,” said Mountain View coach Kevin Powell. “In the first set we passed better than they did. In the rest of the three sets, they really turned it on and passed really well.”
But Brophy changed things up a bit, starting its rotation differently in the second set, with Benson – and his devastating, left-handed jump serve – starting in the back and giving Brophy an early 5-0 lead, including two aces. That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as the Broncos got their offense back in sync and the younger Toros didn’t respond accordingly.
“We are a strong momentum team,” said Brophy coach Tony Oldani. “When we jump out to a lead, we play with a lot of swag in the bag, and things go well for us.”
Benson and fellow setter Andrew Lincoln got the ball to their hitters, including Jake Kufel (11 kills) and Adam Lincoln (8 kills).
“It’s really coming out with some fire, that’s a problem we’ve had a lot during the season,” Adam Lincoln said. “This is a good win for us. Because we’ve had some rough times after we lose the first set during the season. So coming back after that first set, winning three in a row is really big for us.”
Mountain View’s Rock Shill (8 kills) and brother Luke Shill (7 kills) led the way for the Toros, who will graduate just one regular (Rock Shill) from a team that reached the final 16. Mark Olsen added seven blocks for Mountain View, which tried to get around the Brophy block, but only with limited success.
Having been seeded in the top eight, Brophy had the benefit of sitting through the first round and got to watch Mountain View’s match earlier Saturday - before facing them later in the day.
“We were definitely stronger in the middle for three rotations,” Oldani said. “I really think having the ability to watch them play. You don’t think it’s a huge advantage to have that one-round bye and play later but it was good for us. We had a chance, guys sat here for two of their games, watched, took notes. We had a meeting afterward, talk about what we wanted to adjust. It didn’t show in game one, but...”