PHOENIX - Top-seeded Ironwood Ridge lost in the 5A-II state semifinals to No. 5 Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Saturday in a five-set thriller at North Canyon High School.
The 16-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 15-7 loss sent the Nighthawks home one win shy of the state championship game for the fourth year in a row.
"Desert Mountain is a hard-hitting and powerful team," Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang said. "One of our goals was to neutralize their power from the service line to get them out of their rhythm and then do some things to harass their hitters to make sure we got them out of system."
Lang said the Nighthawks were able to accomplish that for the first three sets before everything rolled in the Wolves' favor.
Ironwood Ridge won the first set and appeared to be in control. However, Desert Mountain rebounded in the second set. The Wolves went on a 9-1 run to wipe out a 9-3 Nighthawks' lead and never trailed.
With the teams tied at 12 in the third set, the Nighthawks took off on a 13-8 run to win the set.
Ironwood Ridge fell behind 18-12 in the fourth set but mounted a comeback. It went on an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead and come within five points of winning the match. After tying the score at 22, Desert Mountain closed out the set with three straight points.
The Wolves carried their momentum to a 6-0 lead in the final set. Senior Michaela Christiaansen had a couple kills and tried pull Ironwood Ridge back but it was too late.
Lang doesn't want the loss to ruin a 34-10 season.
"We won our fourth straight region championship, we finished in the gold division of all three tournaments, we played in and we beat a lot of good teams along the way," Lang said.
Christiaansen totaled 29 kills, 13 digs and three aces while senior Morgan Eaton had six kills, three digs, two blocks and one assist. It was the third trip to the semifinals for both.
"It was a great three years and I've learned a lot," Christiaansen said. "We fought hard but it just didn't work out how we wanted it to."