Rachel Synkelma, blocking a shot Oct. 9 against Notre Dame Prep, leads an Ironwood Ridge team that is 14-2 and No. 4 in the Division II power rankings.


Ironwood Ridge volleyball coach Bill Lang feels comfortable as the regular season comes to an end Thursday.

His Nighthawks are ranked fourth in Division II and appear to be one of the few playoff locks from Southern Arizona.

However, Lang also feels for Tucson and Rincon/University, which have winning records and might be left out of the 16-team Division I playoffs because of the qualifying format.

Each division is split up into three sections. The top three teams in each section earn automatic bids, while the final seven spots go according to ranking.

Here's a look at the top three divisions with only a few regular-season matches to go before the playoff brackets are released Friday:

Division I

Southern Arizona teams in top 20: No. 14 Tucson (14-3), No. 19 Rincon/University (13-3).

The situation: Three automatic qualifiers from Section I could knock out both Tucson teams. Tucson, which ended its season last week, is still practicing and hoping it can make it in, according to coach Wendy Parra.

Crucial matches left: The Rangers beat Sahuaro 3-0 at home on Tuesday and play at Catalina Foothills today. They end the regular season at home Thursday against Sierra Vista Buena. Coach Alysha Ramirez isn't sure that winning all three matches would be enough to make it, but she's hopeful.

Quotable: "It would really be wrong if a team that went 15-3 didn't make the state tournament. That's kind of absurd to me that there would be a system set up that teams with losing records are making state, and teams that are playing these really tough schedules down here in Tucson instead of Phoenix, are not making state." - Ramirez

Division II

Southern Arizona teams in top 20: No. 4 Ironwood Ridge (14-2), No. 9 Catalina Foothills (12-3), No. 15 Cienega (15-3), No. 16 Salpointe Catholic (11-6), No. 18 Canyon del Oro (10-6), No. 19 Sahuaro (8-7), No. 20 Mountain View (8-7).

The situation: This is where the most Southern Arizona teams have a chance to get in. Ironwood Ridge and Catalina Foothills appear to be locks because they are Nos. 1 and 2 in Section II. Unlike Division I, the top 16 teams are all in a position to make the playoffs. So Cienega, which ended its season last week, and Salpointe just have to hold on.

Crucial matches left: Ironwood Ridge at Salpointe on Thursday night could determine whether Salpointe gets a playoff berth, especially after the Lancers lost 3-0 at Chandler Basha on Tuesday night. CDO's only match this week is at Mountain View on Thursday.

Quotable: "If Salpointe is in a position that they win, they get into the state tournament and if they lose, they're out, that's going to be an emotional game for them. It's their senior night, it's also the night before our football teams play each other." - I-Ridge's Lang

Division III

Southern Arizona teams in top 20: No. 7 Catalina (15-1), No. 16 Empire (13-4), No. 17 Sahuarita (15-4), No. 19 Amphitheater (12-5).

The situation: Catalina appears to be headed for the tournament, but coach Heather Moore-Martin is waiting for the brackets to be released Friday.

Sahuarita ended its season last week, so it would need some outside help to get in, as would Amphitheater, which hosts Pusch Ridge Christian today.

Crucial matches left: Catalina won 3-0 at Santa Rita on Tuesday night and ends the season at Empire on Thursday. That is the Ravens' only match this week and is a must-win for a possible playoff berth.

Quotable: "I'm just basically in limbo, as Bob Marley would say." - Catalina's Moore-Martin