It didn’t take long for Xavier to get its offense going, grab momentum and easily advance in the Division I state girls volleyball tournament.
Spreading the ball around and dominating at the net, the No.3-seeded Gators quickly eliminated No. 14 Phoenix Pinnacle 25-11, 25-13, 25-20, on Tuesday night in a first-round match.
The Gators get to stay at home in the quarterfinal round on Thursday, this time against No. 11 Desert Vista, a straight-set winner over Chaparral on Tuesday night. On Oct. 17, Xavier lost the first set to Desert Vista before sweeping the next three to win its final regular season match.
“It was fun to start out strong and be able to run different things to get ready for the upcoming matches,” Gators' leading hitter Mia Teilborg said. “This definitely helped us be more comfortable for what we have been doing in practice, so hopefully we will be able to come out strong on Thursday.”
Xavier has won a state title in five of the last seven years, and lost in the semifinals the other two times, so the playoffs are part of the routine at the Phoenix parochial school. It was business as usual on Tuesday, once the Gators got settled in.
“We’re always working on spreading it around, trying different things and mixing it up,” setter Mackenzie Field said.
Xavier jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set, allowed Pinnacle to get within 8-7 before running off six straight points on its way to a 25-11 win. The Gators made a few unforced errors early in the second game but scored nine of the last 10 points to pull away 25-13 in the second set.
“We wanted to come out fast, we wanted to get after them quick,” said longtime Xavier coach Tim McHale. “We played a couple of times earlier and struggled with serve-receive so we wanted to make sure we got out really, really fast against them.”
Teilborg (12 kills) helped Xavier take control in the final set. She got a couple of key points after Pinnacle had closed to 10-9 on a dink by Cassidy Trabilcy. Then, Megan O’Sullivan (8 kills) and Abby Smith finished off the Pioneers, who made a late run to delay the inevitable.
But Pinnacle coach Tammy Butler was pleased with her team’s performance. She knew the Pioneers had a tall order in competing with the perennial power, particularly doing so with one of their regulars out for injury and playing only one senior all night (outside hitter Cassie Hendricks).
“Xavier has always been top-notch,” Butler said. “It’s good that we can come in and compete against them. Like I told my girls, nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of the fact that we got better in each and every set and that’s what it is all about, we’re improving.”
Hendricks got several kills in the match when Pinnacle could get the ball to her, but Amanda Benson (34 digs) and the Xavier defense withstood the Pioneer attack.