If your volleyball team defeats the top seed in the semifinals and the No. 2 seed in the finals, it’s probably safe to say that it deserves to take the state championship trophy home.
And that’s just what the fifth-seeded Gators from Phoenix Xavier Prep did on Tuesday night (Nov. 12).
After taking down top-seeded rival Phoenix Horizon in the Division I semifinals on Saturday (Nov. 9), the Gators came back to outlast No. 2 Chandler Hamilton in five sets that drained the energy from players and fans alike at a packed Gilbert Mesquite gym.
Scores were 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-10 and 15-8.
How emotional and physically draining was it? Xavier senior libero Chaney Hart barely had enough energy to join teammates for a celebratory photo with the trophy.
Afterward, she was helped back to the team bench area with an ice bag on the back of her neck and had people more or less pouring a constant stream of fluids down her. Lamar-Renee Bryant, Xavier’s first-year head coach, called it a courageous effort.
There were plenty of other key pieces to this puzzle.
There were sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier and senior outside hitter Mia Teilborg working the net and senior setter Dani Westfall getting the ball to them so they could make plays.
Xavier (35-7) dropped the first and third sets, but came roaring back in the fourth. The momentum clearly had shifted.
It was clear that the Gators were going to set up the 6-foot-2 Lanier and her seemingly supernatural power game in Game 5. And there wasn’t much that Hamilton (37-6) could do about it.
Lanier has smoothed over most of the rough edges in her game that were seen during her freshman season, and she is on her way to becoming perhaps the state’s top player and one of the best in the nation.
“In Game 5, all bets were off. She was here to show up,’’ Bryant said.
Kill after kill after kill for Kill-lia.
She said playing club ball and improving during the season helped prepare her for such a moment.
Asked what she and her teammates said after they found themselves down two sets to one, she said, “It’s not over.’’
Bryant also marveled at the consistency with which Teilborg played in all parts of her game.
“She played great the whole way,’’ Bryant said. “We have six seniors, and they’ve all done a great job.’’
Said Teilborg: “We (seniors) wanted this very much.’’
And of Lanier, she said, “She was unstoppable.’’
Hamilton gave it a great effort, and if there is any consolation for coach Sharon Vanis and her team, it is that the Huskies have only two seniors and virtually everyone will return next year, maybe for two years and in a couple of cases, three.
The team featured a pair of strong freshman players, setter Sydney Lostumo and middle hitter Preslie Anderson.