Sectional play has arrived and for Highland's and Chandler's volleyball teams there's nothing left but difficult matches.
Competing in the toughest section in Division I, the Lady Hawks and Lady Wolves are going to have to scratch and claw for wins the final half of the season to eke out playoff spots.
Highland used fast starts in the third and fourth sets Tuesday night to stymie host Chandler and take the match, 3-1, at Chandler High. Scores were 25-20, 22-25, 25-15 and 25-20.
Both schools dropped their first two section matches -- Highland losing 3-1 to Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista and Chandler on the short end of sweeps to Desert Vista and Basha. Six of the theirsection opponents are in the top 10 in the current power rankings -- Hamilton, Desert Vista, Gilbert, Mountain Pointe, Perry and Corona del Sol. Basha and Desert Ridge are 11 and 13, respectively.
Playing at a high level every night the rest of the month will be a prerequisite is either is to make the 16-team state bracket come November.
Highland (15-10 overall, 6-4 power-ranking matches) did in the decisive third and fourth sets what Chandler did to it in the second. To Highland assistant coach Darren Ashment, that was the difference.
"The second set they came out and got a huge lead on us," Ashment said. "We came back, but it's hard to win when you get behind like we did. We turned it around the next two sets."
Highland had plenty of attackers for Chandler (16-9, 6-4) to be concerned with, namely three. Tuesday night they were sophmore Tristyn Moser, senior Daeleigh Castile and sophomore Ally Eylers. The trio finished with 15 kills apiece. Moser was a demon on defense recording 20 digs. Serving was a big plus for Highland with Castile and Kanani HIapo collecting five aces each. Hiapo fed hitters with 27 assists.
Chandler coach Audra Slemmer is hoping the Lady Wolves can find consistency more often down the stretch. That trait has eluded her team often this season.
"We've had a hard time being consistent," Slemmer said. "You saw that tonight. The first set we were mediocre, he second we played awesome and the third and fourth we slumped. We struggle giving up runs and making runs. We have to play with more consistency."
Chandler was paced offensively by Abby Gouso (11 kills), Moira Murphy (10 kills) and Ky Westbrook (8 kills).