No. 4-seed Gilbert needed four sets to defeat No. 13 Chaparral, but were able to hold off the visiting Firebirds, 25-13, 23-25, 25-18, 25-15 in the first round of the Division I volleyball state tournament on Tuesday at Gilbert High School.
The first game was close early, but with the game tied at 5, Gilbert (33-7-1) went on a nine-point run on the back of steady serving from Makenna Martin. The margin was too much for Chaparral to overcome and the Tigers won the opening game.
The visitors fared better in the second game, which would prove to be the most competitive of the match. Chaparral maintained a small lead the entire way and closed it out to even the match.
Gilbert Coach Joe Hesse said that the Firebirds were able to calm down in the second game.
“I think maybe Chaparral settled in a little bit and made a few less errors. They gave us a bunch of free points in game one,” Hesse said. “I think we didn’t understand the importance of keeping the foot on the pedal.”
The third game told a similar story to the first. Chaparral found itself down 15-7 before rallying to tie the game at 17. Gilbert overcame the surge, however, and scored eight of the next nine points.
It left Chaparral (21-12) to wonder what may have happened had the Firebirds been able to complete the comeback.
“I think it was a turning point, but in general we just have some young players and they’re a little inconsistent at this point,” Hysong said.
The final set seemed like a formality, as Gilbert pushed out to an early 10-4 lead on the way to a 25-15 victory. The match’s final point prominently featured two of Gilbert’s biggest contributors, as Kameryn Hill stretched for a dig before Kaitlyn Lines killed the ball to finish off the victory. Hill led all players with 38 digs and Lines led all players with 26 kills. Senior Amanda Burton finished with eight blocks.
Hysong pointed to her team’s first appearance in a state tournament as a reasons behind the slow start.
“(They’re) young players and the energy of the first (state tournament) game really gave them the jitters,” she said. “For me, this is a positive. (Gilbert) has a stronger section than we do so they have experience playing harder games more often. We just have to learn how to get through this and learn from it for next year.”
One of her young players, sophomore Lauren Stivrins, led the Firebirds with 14 kills while Savannah Rummel played well and led the Firebirds in digs. Junior Captain Madalyn Roh added six blocks on the night.
After not winning a game in two matches against Xavier during the regular season, Hesse knows his team needs to improve quickly heading into Thursday’s quarterfinals match against the fifth-seeded Gators.
“It’s a four game tournament and we knocked one away,” he told his team after the match. “We know our hands are going to be full with Xavier. If we play the way we played (Tuesday), we won’t win on Thursday.”