Buckle your seat belts, the spring state tournament season is officially here and there is less than one month of action left in the 2013-14 high school sports season.
Tennis players will open up the postseason Friday in the first and second rounds of the singles and doubles state tournaments at five different locations in the Phoenix area. The third round is Saturday at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale and Scottsdale Ranch Park. The remaining rounds will be held the following weekend at Paseo, capped off with the semifinals and finals May 3.
Here’s a look at four other things to watch in a busy week of prep sports:
Baseball: Having lost four of its last five games, No. 32 Marana essentially needs to win its final four to even have a shot at making the Division II state tournament.
The Tigers (14-7) are on a three-game skid but will try to snap it when they host Palo Verde today at 4 p.m. The Titans (19-3) are ranked fourth in Division III and have won 15 of their last 16 since losing to Marana 7-2 in the Dan Moore Classic on March 12. Junior Travis Howard went 2 for 4 with a double and drove in three runs in addition to striking out eight batters in pitching five innings to earn the win.
Girls tennis: Since 2007, the girls tennis teams from Pusch Ridge Christian and St. Gregory have combined to win five state titles. But there is a chance only one of those teams will qualify for the Division III state tournament this spring.
To play into the postseason, Pusch Ridge, ranked 14th in the division as of Sunday, will likely need to win when it hosts No. 11 St. Gregory at Hilton El Conquistador in a 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the last day of the regular season for tennis teams.
The Lions (8-4) are riding a five-match winning streak and beat St. Gregory 7-2 to open the season. However, the Hawks (10-2) have won 10 of their last 11 matches since then and are in a better position to qualify for the playoffs even if they lose.
Boys volleyball: No. 13 Ironwood Ridge will go for its fifth straight win and some revenge when it hosts Catalina Foothills on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The Nighthawks (15-14) lost to the Falcons twice last season and are 4-1 at home this spring, with their lone loss coming against No. 16 Sierra Vista Buena in five sets to open the season.
No. 23 Foothills (12-11) would really benefit from a win because it will have just three matches left after that and will most likely have to rely on its overall ranking and quality for the postseason through an at-large bid.
WEDNESDAY & FRIDAY
Track and field: Several local athletes will have one last chance to either qualify in or fine-tune their events this week at the Southern Arizona Championships at Mountain View.
The event, which runs on Wednesday and Friday, replaces the former Sabino Invitational and models the state championship meet that begins May 7.
Wednesday’s action begins at 11 a.m. with finals in girls pole vault and shot put and the boys high jump and long jump. Track events kick off at 1 p.m. with the preliminaries in the girls 100 hurdles. The meet resumes Friday at 2 p.m. and should go into the evening.