HIGH SCHOOL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY

Catalina boys spike school title drought

2010-05-16T00:00:00Z Catalina boys spike school title droughtGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 16, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Catalina High School was considered something of an affluent, privileged school when it was built in 1957, an architectural marvel that was routinely referred to as "Disneyland."

It didn't take long for the explosive growth and sprawl of Tucson to change that perception and turn Catalina into something less than Disneyland, much less. Nothing reflected the fall more than the school's inability to be competitive athletically.

After Cliff Myrick coached the Trojans to the 1967 state baseball title and tennis coaches Ken Fones and Keith Meenan dominated boys tennis in Tucson in the '60s, the Trojans became fodder for the newer schools such as Sabino, Sahuaro and, especially, Canyon del Oro.

Across the last 40 years, Catalina won a single boys state championship: the 1989 tennis title. Compare that to newbie Catalina Foothills, which not only borrows half of the Trojans' name, but also won 53 state championships from 2000 to 2009.

Plain ol' Catalina won one, the 2006 girls cross country title.

Such was the backdrop at Pueblo High School on Saturday when the two Catalinas met for the 2A-4A state championship in boys volleyball.

Much of Foothills' crowd was outfitted in T-shirts symbolic of the school's 2006, 2007 and 2008 boys volleyball state championships. A few minutes before the match started, Falcons star Jake Klewer walked to the bleachers to kiss the championship ring of an ex-Falcons teammate.

CHS, by comparison, has but a single senior on its roster, the steady Oybeq Kholiqov, and nobody with any ties to a championship ring.

But this time something had changed. Coach Heather Moore-Martin's Trojans, although seeded No. 2 behind top-ranked Foothills, had impressively won 42 consecutive games (14-0 in overall matches).

How can a team on a 42-0 streak be the underdog?

After CHS won Saturday's first two games, 25-23 and 25-13, extending its streak to 44 straight, the Falcons broke through and won 25-18. The streak was broken but the Trojans wouldn't break. They rallied to win the fourth game 25-19 and an emotional celebration followed.

It was long overdue and well deserved.

"It was a long haul and it required a lot of heart," said Catalina's Lorenzo "Lonnie" Gonzales, one of five junior starters. "We've been together since middle school. We've got good chemistry."

No kidding. The Trojans aren't spectacular; no one could match Klewer's many impressive kill shots. But juniors Marcellious Gibbs, Ryan Graham, Cooper Kowalski and Josh DeYoung were so methodical and effective, limiting mistakes as a unit, that Foothills couldn't keep pace.

"It's a fairy tale," said Graham. "We should be even better next year."

These fairy-tale type seasons don't happen by accident. Moore-Martin played on Hall of Fame coach Mary Hines' 1983 Catalina girls state championship team. ("I was a junior and didn't play much," she says.) She later became an assistant coach at Pima College, where she met her husband and assistant coach Keith Martin, who has been a volleyball coach and aficionado since the old Tucson Sky pro volleyball days of the late 1970s.

"I got hooked on volleyball in the fourth grade," Heather remembers. "After I played for the first time I took a volleyball home and bumped it against a wall every night. It was love at first sight."

She might've pursued a job in the horse racing industry. She graduated from the UA's renowned Racetrack Industry Program, the same one that produced world-class trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, and had credentials to work globally in that business. But she didn't want to leave Tucson, and thus pursued volleyball.

After coaching at Pima and Green Fields Country Day School, tiring of the long bus rides to outlying ACCAC and 1A high schools, Moore-Martin jumped at a 1998 opportunity to coach at her old school. She continues to teach at Pima College, but the rest of the time, including summer and club-league volleyball, she is all-Catalina, all the time.

Her Catalina girls team went on an astonishing 26-0 run last fall before being eliminated in the state semifinals. Pretty good year, huh?

"Coach is tough, but she is fair; she makes sure we do things right," said Gonzales. "We know about her background we've seen the (1983) championship banner in the gym."

A few years ago, Moore-Martin opened the school's somewhat meager sports trophy case and quietly removed a photograph of the '83 title team. She didn't like her picture. "She thinks it made her look pasty or something," her husband said with a laugh.

On Saturday, grasping the new state championship trophy, Heather Moore-Martin posed for a new group of photographs. They are destined for the school's trophy case.

"This one will look good in there," she said. "I can't wait to see it."

MORE championship coverage INSIDE, PAGES 4-5 Final day of season features track and field, baseball, softball and tennis.

Southern Arizona baseball teams were runners-up in three conferences on Saturday, as Empire, Tanque Verde and Catalina Foothills came close.

Cienega won the 4A-I state softball championship, Willcox beat rival Benson to win the 2A crown and Sahuarita took it to the wire in its state title game.

Tucson High's Christine Clark led the way for Southern Arizona in the 4A and 5A track and field meets at Mesa Community College.

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