Fourth-seeded Ironwood Ridge improved to 11-0 at home in the postseason on Tuesday night, but visiting Cienega made sure it wasn't easy.
The Nighthawks (28-12) dropped the first set against the Bobcats 27-25 but went on to win the next three 25-21, 25-16, 25-19 and eliminate No. 13 Cienega from the Division II state tournament.
With the 3-1 win, I-Ridge will host No. 12 Glendale Deer Valley on Thursday with a trip to the semifinals at stake.
I-Ridge never trailed in the fourth set and locked up the match with the simplest form of volleyball when junior Hana Peterman set up sophomore Aunesty Jantz for her match-high 20th kill of the night, the game winner.
"It was in slow motion, and I was envisioning it," Jantz said. "Once I got that final set I wanted to put the game away and help the team out."
I-Ridge coach Bill Lang called the final play picture perfect but said this was the first time seven of his players - including Jantz - have been to the state tournament, so he expected the first set to go the way it did.
It featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes before the Bobcats (21-8) scored back-to-back points to win 27-25 when Ironwood Ridge lost control of the ball.
But the Nighthawks took full control from there. They trailed only once late in the second set but then got the lead back and won 25-21 on a kill by Jantz.
The Nighthawks pulled ahead 8-7 in the third set and never trailed again. Junior Kennedy Kurtz won that set with a kill and finished with 15 in the match.
Cienega four-year starter Stephanie Mendivil, who led the team with 18 kills, said it was tough to lose after tasting victory in the first set but was still proud of her team in her final match as a Bobcat.
"We played out butts off out there, and I couldn't have asked for anything more," she said. "No one thought we were going to take them four sets or even be close to them."
Cienega coach Heather Mott said Tuesday night was the hardest Mendivil hit the ball this season.
• Gilbert 3, Tucson 0: At Gilbert, senior Carly Trueman had seven kills and five blocks, but it wasn't enough as the Badgers were eliminated from the Division I tournament in the opening round.
• Chandler Basha 3, Rincon/University 0: At Basha, ninth-seeded Rincon was eliminated from the Division I tournament in straight sets, never topping the 19-point mark in any of the three sets.
• Paradise Valley 3, Catalina Foothills 0: At Foothills, the eighth-seeded Falcons were upset in the opening round of the Division II state tournament despite 15 digs and five kills from Delaney Dunagan.
• Glendale Ironwood 3, Salpointe Catholic 0: At Ironwood, the Lancers nearly knocked off Ironwood in the second set, but fell 26-24 and dropped the third 25-11.
• Scottsdale Notre Dame 3, Canyon del Oro 0: At Notre Dame, the 15th-seeded Dorados scored 21 points in the first set but lost in three.