Gilbert girls volleyball coch Joe Hesse doesn't normally enter his team in an invitational so early in the season, but with a starting lineup of two freshmen and two sophomores this year he thought it wise to do so.
Gilbert went in as the tournament favorite and despite the young lineup won all its matches, including a 25-21, 25-19 triumph over Corona del Sol in the Gold Division final at the annual House of Payne Tournament at Chandler High School.
Gilbert, which opened regular season play earlier in the week with a 3-0 sweeps of Basha and Red Mountain, tacked on eight more wins Friday and Saturday at the two-day invite. The Lady Tigers lost a set each to Campo Verde and Mesquite on Saturday, but were otherwise unscathed. Still, Hesse had his reasons for getting in a bunch of matches so soon.
"I think we're going to be a very good team, but we needed some time (matches)," Hesse said. "Next week we have Horizon and Hamilton. I wanted a chance to see us more before those matches."
Gilbert won six pool matches and then dispatched Highland in two sets in the semis (25-19, 25-19) before doing the same vs. Corona. Hesse knows his team is solid in terms of passing and defense. "We're very gooid in the back line,." he said.
That was evidenced by 13 digs each from sophomore libero Kameryn Hill and junior defensive specialist Danielle Carloni. Senior libero Kaylee Panepinto, a starter last year, chipped in with 10 digs.
Offense -- Hesse believes will come around more gradually. He has, however, liked what he's seen from freshman outside hitter Kaitlyn Lines, freshman middle Alexa Rockas, senior middle Heather Ball, junior hitter Lauren Palmer and all-purpose sophomore Makenna Martin.
Lines delivered nine kills and Ball added seven in the victory over Corona del Sol. Setter Sammi Brozac enjoyed a nice tournament and kick-started Gilbert in the first set of the final. Brozac served five straight points to bring the Lady Tigers from behind a 9-8 deficit, including three successive aces. She produced a similar streak in the second set (six service points and two aces) to help Gilbert break the set open
Corona started a lineup even younger than Gilbert (three freshmen and two sophomores). The Lady Aztecs were 6-2 in their matches despite all the youth. They played a tight , three-set match against Campo Verde in the Gold semifinals, edging the Lady Coyotes, 18-25, 25-19, 17-15. Corona rallied from a 14-12 deficit in the decisive set, which may have taken an extra toll heading to the final.
"Overall I was very pleased," Corona del Sol coach Ben Maxwell said. "We made a lot of young errors, but I saw a lot of good things."
Tops on the stat sheet was junior libero Alyssa Meyer with 21 digs in the final vs. Gilbert.