Beth Lemke, the co-head coach with Jackie Switzer for Phoenix Northwest Christian volleyball, makes a forceful point that the Crusaders consider themselves to be all business for every match.
But Lemke also admits that sometimes the team raises its level a few notches if the opponent is above the norm.
It was the latter scenario that surfaced on Thursday night (Sept. 26).
Northwest Christian, last year’s Division IV runner-up and state champion two years before that, was meeting visiting Phoenix Veritas Prep, which had won three straight state titles in Division V and moved up to Division IV this year.
The Crusaders wanted to send a message that the new kid on the block likely will have to go through them to capture another crown.
Northwest Christian accomplished its task with an impressive three-game sweep, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-19.
“We knew they (Veritas) was going to be one of the teams to beat this year,’’ Lemke said.
Northwest Christian did it with an effective mix of strong front-line play, timely defense and good service.
“We have a lot of tools. We don’t have just one “go-to girl,’ ’’ Lemke said. “There isn’t really one girl that gets a lot of kills. We have kills across the board, three or four girls can get anywhere from five to eight. We like to keep teams off guard, not let them know where the ball is going.’’
Veritas came in with senior star Sarah Sponcil, who can do just about anything at any time on the floor.
Sponcil had a few impressive moments, but in general, Northwest Christian neutralized her, probably about as well as anyone can. There were a few key blocks up front and libero Nikki Milroy controlled the back line by digging out shots on numerous occasions and helping to set up her teammates at the net.
“We knew Sarah has a lot of different shots, so we worked her (Milroy) hard in practice, having her go from corner to corner,’’ Lemke said. “She played well tonight.’’
The Crusaders also got some excellent serves from Darby Switzer and relied on the power of Alexis Patterson, whose booming left-handed shots often found their mark.
“She (Patterson) has been on the varsity for four years and she has really helped us,’’ Lemke said.
Veritas overcame a late deficit in Game 1, scoring five straight points for a 23-22 lead, but Northwest Christian rallied to edge the Falcons at the wire.
Veritas had a 16-14 lead in Game 2, but Northwest scored five straight points to move in front for good.
Northwest Christian simply wore Veritas down in Game 3.