PRESCOTT VALLEY – Saturday night’s (Nov. 9) Division IV girls volleyball championship match was billed as one for the ages, between Phoenix Northwest Christian and Phoenix Veritas Prep, the top two seeds.
That’s exactly what it was.
Veritas was in control, winning the first two sets. But Northwest Christian somehow reached down deep to win the third set, and the momentum shifted. Veritas could not stop it. Northwest Christian won Game 4 and scored the final eight points of Game 5 to take the match and the title at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Scores were 19-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-11 and 15-10.
Northwest Christian coach Beth Lemke, who led her team to a runner-up finish last season after winning it all in 2011, said her team came into this match a bit tentative.
The Crusaders appeared somewhat lifeless, but seemed to wake up in Game 3.
Asked what she told her team, before the third game, Lemke said, “ “We need to depend on each other.’ That’s all you can ask. We have seven seniors and there is no quit in them. They took the young ones under their wing.’’
Veritas had come in having won three straight championships in Class 1A/Division V and four of the last five before the move to D-IV. The Falcons featured senior outside hitter Sarah Sponcil, a two-time Small Schools Player of the Year by The Arizona Republic.
Sponcil was dominant, particularly in the early going.
“Sarah Sponcil is a great player and their coaching staff is very good,’’ Lemke said. “They know the game very well and they knew where to play her and what to do. We tried to counter that as best we could.’’
Northwest Christian had swept Veritas twice during the season, 3-0 at home and 2-0 at the Goldwater Festival. Still, nothing was a given, as the first two games on Saturday night showed.
Senior Alexis Patterson and junior Jemina Carrizosa countered Sponcil with strong work along the net, and they came up with some key serves.
It appeared that Veritas had finally stopped the bleeding in Game 5, taking a 10-7 lead on the strength of a Sponcil kill.
Northwest Christian got a couple of kills to pull closer, and a Veritas block that went out of bounds allowed Northwest Christian to take an 11-10 edge. Another Northwest Christian kill ensued and it was only a matter of time at that point. Carrizosa had aces in two of the final three points, including the one to decide the match.
By the end, Veritas had run out of energy.
“We played our hearts out early,’’ said Veritas coach Wes Goodwin.
“Then our “youngness’ became a factor and I think we became a little frustrated. We used every drop of energy that we could.’’
Early in the season, Goodwin wasn’t certain how to assess the D-IV field, having played very few of the teams. But he knew they were good.
“I knew there would be about 10 teams, that if they went on a run, they were capable of winning it. Whoever was going to win was going to have to earn it, and they (Northwest Christian) earned it,’’ he said.