The No. 13-seeded Sedona Red Rock High School volleyball team started off strong against No. 20 Chandler Preparatory Academy, but in the end was swept 3-0 [23-25, 23-25, 14-25] by the Titans on Thursday, Oct. 26.
The Scorpions [14-4, 8-2 Central Region] had prepared for what their opponents brought to the table, but struggled to execute against it during the Conference 2A Play-In match.
Chandler Prep [6-12, 2-8 Metro East Region] gave the hosts fits with their style of attacking, which involved quicker sets from different locations. Where it did most of the damage was in the middle.
“We got burned on way too many tips and that’s what we worked on at practice and they just weren’t anticipating,” Scorpions co-head coach Danni Barker said. “We knew that they go to their middles a lot. We practiced blocking. It was a different timing of things than we’ve seen, it was little bit quicker .... we couldn’t time it. We were prepared for it we just didn’t execute it.”
Titans junior middle blocker Ali Cohen got more looks as the match went on, especially in the second and third sets. Junior setter Isabelle Miranda was as accurate as she was consistent in her placement.
Opposite of Miranda was Red Rock sophomore setter Mary Westervelt, who had returned from injury just five days prior. She was the lone setter for the Scorpions, and the lack of practice and continuity showed at times.
“I don’t think it was nerves, we just got out of control, we stopped controlling the ball and we started making stupid decisions, swinging when we shouldn’t swing,” Barker said. “The girls should know when to swing and not swing when the set is really off.”
Chandler Prep’s backrow defending was shaky at the start, but grew into the match as it went along, mainly through the play of senior libero Taylor Mantle. Mantle, in the middle of the defense, finished with 25 digs. At the same time, the Scorpions piled up hitting errors as well.
Scorpions senior middle hitter Chenoa Crans got a kill on a quick set to make it 10-5, and later on senior outside hitter Julia Koss forced a timeout with a service ace to make it 14-8.
The Titans tied it at 15 when freshman middle blocker Evi Yates had a solo block on a back row attack by Koss. Red Rock opened a four-point lead again at 21-17, but a hitting error, net violation and service ace tied it at 23. Another net violation and a passing error saw Chandler Prep sneak away with the first set.
The second set saw the Titans get out to an early lead only for the Scorpions to come back and lead by as many as four at 16-12. Coming out of a timeout, Chandler Prep immediately got back into the set with a kill from freshman outside hitter Olivia Cadien and two Red Rock defensive miscommunications.
The teams traded the lead three times. Cohen nabbed two kills from the middle to regain the lead at 18-17, the Scorpions responded through a Koss kill and Fritz ace, then Miranda snuck in a tip and Cohen again killed from the middle before hitting an ace of her own.
“Their setter is actually an amazing setter so we knew right from the get-go that it was going to be hard to read her and figure out where she’s setting,” Fritz said. “We kind of just took that and tried our best. We gave it all we had.”
Another tip and a hit from the right side was slightly deflected to seal the 25-23 victory, and put Red Rock on the brink of elimination.
For the second straight set, King opened the scoring with a kill, this time on an overpass. It was tied at three before the Titans grabbed all of the momentum and tore off a 14-2 run to open an insurmountable 16-5 lead.
On one play Mantle made a diving dig that popped over the net, and Chandler Prep went on to win the point.
Red Rock’s points came from a service error and a Koss kill, who later had pancake dig go over the net for a point. King forced two passing errors with her serves and then hit an ace, but it was too little, too late.
A hitting error made it 24-14 and Cohen finished off the match with yet another kill from the middle. Cohen had 10 kills and Miranda 25 assists.
Westervelt finished with 20 assists and King with 10 kills to lead the Scorpions.
Koss and Crans along with libero Liza Westervelt and defensive specialist Jo Toscano are the four departing seniors.
“They’re going to be hard to replace,” Barker said. “Overall I’m really proud. We went through three different setters, so many injuries, we overcame so many things, truly we did. I think they’re a great team.
“I’m proud of them because I think they’re all better now than they were three months ago.”