After winning the House of Payne Tournament in Chandler over the weekend, Gilbert High’s girls volleyball team was moving right along. The Tigers were 8-0, including the tournament, entering Tuesday night’s (Sept. 10) match at Division I defending champion Phoenix Horizon.
Horizon, meanwhile, had just one match, a sweep of Anthem Boulder Creek.
“We had a ton of practices, but it’s just not the same experience as having good shots coming back at you and knowing what to do,’’ Horizon coach Valorie McKenzie said. “This match was a huge concern for us. Gilbert is an excellent team.’’
McKenzie was still figuring out various lineups, and only Monday (Sept. 9) had senior middle blocker Natalie Tardy play as an outside hitter for the first time in practice.
Somehow, the Huskies worked everything out. Having as much talent as they do can help overcome any strategic uncertainties.
Horizon registered a three-game sweep of Gilbert, but it wasn’t easy by any means. The Huskies earned everything they got against the Tigers, winning 25-23, 25-17 and 26-24.
“We were nervous at first, but we were able to put things together,’’ McKenzie said.
Even though the Huskies faced numerous pressure situations on the way to the title, that was last year and the team needed to start learning to play in such scenarios this season.
That was why McKenzie said she did not call timeouts down the stretch of the third game as Gilbert threatened to take it to a fourth game.
“We did really well. That was encouraging,’’ McKenzie said.
Senior setter Lauren Conati and senior middle blocker Tess Clark led the way in this one.
Conati was on the mark most of the night with her passes, many of them to Clark for big kills. Clark also had several blocks. Senior outside hitter Sierra Nobley had a fine all-around match, and junior libero Jordan Anderson played strong defense.
“Lauren distributes the ball well. She is smart and uses all of her hitters. She has really improved,’’ McKenzie said.
Gilbert got solid efforts from its two senior middle blockers, Angela Webb and Heather Ball, and some promising moments from a pair of young outside hitters, sophomore Makenna Martin and freshman Kaitlyn Lines.