Needing four points to win and advance to the 4A-II state semifinals, Amphitheater could have used just a little bit of luck.
Perhaps Peoria Liberty could hit the ball out or serve it into the net. Maybe the Panthers could grab the momentum with a quick kill or an ace. Something. Anything.
Liberty, the No. 7 seed, scored the final four points of the fifth set at Amphi on Thursday night to win 3-2 and knock the No. 2 Panthers out of the state tournament.
Set scores were 21-25, 26-24, 30-28, 22-25, 15-11.
The Panthers had a slight edge the entire first set and gained an early advantage in the match, but Liberty's nationally touted hitter Noel Pauga began to come alive in the second. Pauga led the Lions (19-0) to wins in the second and third sets that each went to extras.
"We weren't gonna drive all the way out here and lose," Pauga said.
But that's when the Panthers (18-2) decided to take a stand. On their home floor, in front of a raucous crowd, Amphi climbed back into the match with an impressive showing in the fourth. The Panthers led 22-16 before winning by three.
Amphi senior Taylor Lane said some of her underclassmen teammates were trying hard not to let this be the final match for the seniors.
"We knew that it could have been the end of our season," said Lane, who had 22 kills. "What I told them was just that you have to leave it all out on the floor. You can't get down on yourself because it's now or never."
Amphi coach Tim Nordensson said he couldn't be more proud of his team. Nordensson agreed that Thursday's match could have easily been a state title match instead of a second-round match.
"We were told that they were a carbon copy of us, that they were a lot like us in many ways," Nordensson said. "And I can see why now. I think they are. I think we were very evenly matched."
• Sabino 3, Scottsdale Saguaro 0: At Sabino, the Sabercats advanced to the semifinals and will play No. 6 Prescott at Peoria High School on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Maddie Bushman had 19 kills, and Courtney Spalt had 35 assists to lead the No. 2 Sabercats to a 25-18, 25-16, 25-14 win.
• Phoenix Sunnyslope 3, Sahuaro 0: At Phoenix Sunnyslope, Samantha Duncan had 28 assists, and sophomore Kassidy Crawford had seven kills, but the Cougars weren't able to pull out a win. Set scores were 25-15, 25-23, 25-17.
No. 5 Sahuaro finished its season with an 18-2 record.
Sarah Sterns led the team with seven digs.