Hamilton girls volleyball has been one of Divison I's top programs in recent years. Trouble is it doesn't have a lot of hardware to show for it.
The Lady Huskies took care of a piece of tournament success that has eluded them over the years on Saturday by claiming their first-ever gold division championship at the 37-team Westwood Tournament of Champions at Westwood High.
To accomplish that, Hamilton defeated Desert Vista in the title match, 25-22, 25-13. It was Hamilton's fourth match of the afternoon as one of 12 teams to qualify for the 2013 gold division crown. The second set showcased the potential this year's squad has as Hamilton did nearly everything right in thrashing Desert Vista. The same Desert Vista team that beat them in the morning session just as handiy -- a tight first set and blowout in the second.
"This match was night and day of the one we played them this morning," Hamilton coach Sharon Vanis said. "They handed it to us in the morning. It was nice to turn around and play better. We played well in the afternoon.
"We'd never won this tournament before. Never played in the championship before. Been to the semifinals several times. Getting to the championship and winning it, we'll take it."
Hamilton saw its record on the season jump to 15-1 (9-1 in tournament matches the last two days). The Lady Huskies swept all four opponents in the 12-team, single elimination bracket -- Mountain Ridge, Gilbert and Sunnyslope were the other three.
Junior outside hitter McKenna Woodford, a transfer from D-IV state champion Sedona Red Rock, led Hamilton with eight kills and 11 digs. Woodford, Emilee Dawson and Preslie Anderson combined to frustrate Desert Vista's hitters with their blocking. Sophomore Jessica Williams had 16 assists, feeding mostly Woodcock and Anderson and occassioally Olivia Hallaran.
Desert Vista also piled up nine wins in the tournament to run its record to 15-1 overall.
"We didn't play the way we did earlier today when we beat them," Desert Vista coach Molly West said. "I''m not disappointed with our play. We've played very well so far. We need to be ready for big matches and get big-match experience. That's what this was."
Desert Vista could have won the first set, a see-saw battle of runs by each team. The Lady Thunder trailed 21-18 when West called timeout after Hamiton snapped an 18-18 tie with two kills and a block. Desert Vista responded with four consecurive points -- two on Hamilton errors and two on a kill and block by junior outside Matisse Monty, Three successive kills (two by Woodford and one by Anderson) put Hamilton one point away from winning the first set. Desert Vista lost the set on the next point, failing to return the ball after three hits.
Hamilton bolted to a 4-0 lead in the second set thanks mostly to unforced errors. The Lady Huskies never trailed in the set, finishing off the match quickly and easily.
Hamilton reached the final beating Sunnyslope in the semifinals, 25-15, 25-20. Desert Vista earned its spot taking down Chaparral, 25-15, 25-21. The other schools qualifying for play in the gold divisions were Basha, Campo Verde, Gilbert, Highland, Ironwood Ridge, Mountain Pointe, Mountain Ridge and Thunderbird.