Gilbert had a mere speed bump in the road Tuesday on its quest for a boys volleyball state championship.
The No. 5 Tigers were on cruise control, but a pesky No. 4 Deer Valley squad almost forced a decisive Game 5 as Gilbert advanced to the state tournament semifinals with a 25-16, 25-19, 20-25, 27-25 victory on Tuesday night at Deer Valley.
Gilbert will host No. 1 Hamilton on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Huskies topped No. 8 Anthem Boulder Creek in four games (25-22, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21).
“I think we thought we had won it a little earlier than that so there was a bit of a hiccup,” Gilbert coach Jeff Grover said. “I definitely expected Deer Valley to go the distance with us.”
The Tigers (40-3), who hadn’t lost a game in the tournament, fired on all cylinders early as seniors Cody Martin and Tyler Hutchinson had good hitting lanes and made Deer Valley (35-6) pay from the start.
“Gilbert is a heck of team and they earned every point,” Deer Valley coach Eric Palmer said. “We came out and just kind of had to settle ourselves down. We finally found our rhythm in the third game and it was just back and forth from there.”
After winning Game 3, Deer Valley held a 12-7 advantage in Game 4 but the Tigers rallied and took a 24-22 lead on a Cody Martin kill. The Skyhawks didn’t fold and tied the game at 24-24 until Jaz Montford ended the match with a block.
“In Game 3 they came out really strong and kind of go us back on our heels a little bit but we stayed strong and pulled it out,” said Martin. “I felt like on me and Ty (Hutchins), they kind of closed up the gaps and left the middle open. We just have to deal with that, it is going to happen.”
Martin finished with 21 kills while Hutchinson tallied 20.
“I thought Cody was unstoppable tonight,” Grover said. “Our seniors have led us all year and I will live and die by those guys.”