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MaxPreps 2013 Arizona high school volleyball playoffs look-in

Photo by Mark Jones

The O'Connor High volleyball team thrives upon team efforts each night out, and has led to playoff success.

The adjustment to the state's biggest division has not been a smooth one for the O'Connor (Phoenix) girls volleyball program.

That changed Thursday night when the third-seeded Eagles took down one of the state's top teams, sixth-seeded Desert Vista (Phoenix), to advance to Saturday's Division I semifinals where SDO gets to hang out with the premier programs.

"That was a gigantic win," Eagles coach Bill Bellis said.

Photo by Mark Jones

Jesse Hover, O'Connor

SDO (34-6) took the Thunder out of their system, most of their jump serves came up aces and they used their all-round attack to bring Desert Vista's season to an end with a 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 victory.

It is the Eagles' first semifinal appearance since 2008, when they were in the Class 4A Division I.

SDO rose to Division I three seasons ago, with a stop in Class 5A II for two years (2009 and 2010), and finished two wins over .500 over the time until this year when the Eagles have won 34 of 40 matches.

"They are a really good ball club and we had them out of their system a little bit and any time that happens to anybody you are going to struggle," Bellis said of the win over the Thunder. "Our kids were fired up and we played well."

The Eagles play the game differently than most teams, as they make up for their lack of size (one upperclassman over 6-feet tall) with athletic, quick and all-around players. Jesse Hover and Kalie Lyle have nasty jump serves, four players have more than 200 kills with Taylor Specht, Lyle, Sterling Williamson and Jessica Licurgo spreading the wealth with Olivia Brunt and Sam Furtman running the offense, while Hover and her sister, Sam Hover, have combined for more than 800 digs.

It's led to a great season that might have caught some others off guard and now SDO is one win away from its first state title appearance.

"Other teams are bigger than we are, but our kids can play," Bellis said. "Our ball control has been superb and it's the name of the game.

"The story of our team is we don't have that one kid we have to go to. We spread it around, it works well for us."

Here is a look at the postseason heading into Friday's postseason action:

Division I
At Mesquite High
Saturday

No. 3 Sandra Day O'Connor (34-6) vs. No. 4 Hamilton (Chandler) (36-5), 4 p.m.
No. 4 Xavier College Prep (Phoenix) (31-7) vs. No. 1 Horizon (Scottsdale) (37-2), 6 p.m.

Division II
At Mesquite High
Saturday

No. 3 Sunnyslope (Phoenix) (35-7) vs. No. 2 Ironwood Ridge (Tucson) (35-7), 4 p.m.
No. 5 Tucson High Magnet School (37-3) vs. No. 1 Campo Verde (Gilbert) (39-6), 2 p.m.

Division III
Tim's Toyota Center
First and second round action, Friday
Semifinals and finals, Saturday

No. 16 Catalina Foothills (Tucson) vs. No. 1 Snowflake
No. 9 Thunderbird (Phoenix) vs. No. 8 Saguaro (Scottsdale)
No. 12 Blue Ridge (Lakeside) vs. No. 5 Cactus (Glendale)
No. 13 Holbrook vs. No. 4 Monument Valley (Kayenta)
No. 14 Payson vs. No. 3 Flagstaff
No. 11 Florence vs. No. 6 Seton Catholic (Chandler)
No. 10 Greenway (Phoenix) vs. No. 7 Tuba City
No. 15 Empire (Tucson) vs. No. 2 Safford

Division IV
Tim's Toyota Center
Quarterfinals, Friday
Semifinals and finals, Saturday

No. 8 Scottsdale Christian Academy (Phoenix) vs. Northwest Christian (Phoenix)
No. 5 Thatcher vs. No. 4 Northland Prep Academy (Flagstaff)
No. 6 Chandler Prep vs. No. 3 Red Rock (Sedona)
No. 10 Horizon Honors (Phoenix) vs. No. 2 Veritas Prep (Phoenix)

Division V
Tim's Toyota Center
First and second round, Friday
Semifinals and finals, Saturday

No. 16 Gilbert Classical Academy vs. No. 1 St. David
No. 9 Arizona Lutheran Academy (Phoenix) vs. No. 8 St. Gregory College Prep (Tucson)
No. 12 Shonto Prep vs. No. 5 Glendale Prep Academy
No. 13 Phoenix Christian vs. No. 4 Valley Union (Elfrida)
No. 14 Valley Lutheran (Phoenix) vs. No. 3 Pima
No. 11 Academy of Tucson vs. No. 6 St. Johns
No. 10 Ray (Kearny) vs. No. 7 Joy Christian (Glendale)
No. 15 Red Mesa (Teec Nos Pos) vs. No. 2 Desert Christian (Tucson)

Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Follow on Twitter @JSkodaAFN and contact him at jskoda1024@aol.com.

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