Hamilton has never won a girls volleyball state championship, but the Huskies are one step closer to checking off that accomplishment.
Behind 13 kills and nine digs from sophomore Olivia Hallaran, second-seeded Hamilton knocked off third-seeded Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor in three games, 25-21, 25-17, 25-22, in Saturday's Division I semifinals at Mesquite High School.
The Huskies will face No. 5-seed Xavier at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Mesquite in the title match, immediately following No. 1 Campo Verde vs. No. 3 Phoenix Sunnyslope in the Div. II championship match at 5:45 p.m.
It will be Hamilton's second finals appearance, after it finished runner-up to Xavier in 2010.
The rest of the volleyball world might disagree, but in the Huskies' minds, calling this run to the title match a Cinderella story would be an understatement because they didn't they had such a run in them in late August.
"Not at all," said Hallaran, one of seven freshmen or sophomores on the roster.
"With this group of kids it's even more special," said Hamilton coach Sharon Vanis, who guided that 2010 team to the finals. "I don't think anybody, including ourselves, thought we could get here. I have a great group of kids with a lot of talent, but they'd never played together before. It was a whole new group but I'll tell you what, they figured it out."
Against Sandra Day O'Connor, the Huskies (37-5) heeded the scouting report to control the net and extended their win streak to seven matches.
"This is great for coach (Vanis)," Hallaran said. "She obviously took us to be a great team and got us to where we are."
McKenna Woodford had 10 kills for the Huskies and freshman Preslie Anderson had nine, including five in the third game. Shelby Babcock, one of just two seniors, tallied nine digs and three aces.
Hamilton hasn't lost a game in its three state tournament matches but is well aware the level of competition spikes with Xavier (32-7) up next. Xavier beat defending-champion and No. 1-seed Horizon in four games in Saturday's late semifinal.
"We know what's next, we know that," Vanis said before her team's championship opponent was determined. "But to get there we're so pleased. We'll prepare to do our best and hopefully come out with the win."
Hamilton beat a less-than-full-strength Xavier team in three games at the Gilbert Invitational back in early October.
"They're super tall up front so we have to outplay them with our speed," Hallaran said. "We're really small so it's going to be a challenge. But we're up for it."
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