GILBERT - At Mesquite High School in Gilbert, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (29-13-0) failed to capitalize on early Flagstaff mistakes and were never able to get on track, losing to the undefeated Eagles 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) in the Division II semifinals.
The Eagles (41-0-1) are not the tallest team, but their roster is full of athletic and dynamic athletes that gave the Nighthawks fits all match long. Flagstaff junior outside hitter Randi Powers was able to rise above Ironwood Ridge's block at will.
She finished with 10 kills and recorded six of the Eagles last eight points during a third-set comeback that sealed the victory.
"They were waiting out on me and they were pushing me to the pen, and everyone knows that's my favorite spot to go is line and they weren't giving me that, so we just shortened up our set to a three and I had no block out." Powers described.
Ironwood Ridge started the match off with a solid first set leading 14-9 thanks in part to several unforced errors by the Eagles, but Flagstaff rallied back and scored five straight points to tie it up.
They catapulted into the lead on a monster kill by senior Izzy Gosar who also scored the set-winning point on a similar punishing shot.
The Eagles used a 9-2 run in the second set to build a 21-10 lead and were able to hold off a late Nighthawk rally that included three kills from sophomore Aunesty Jantz.
Jantz put forth a valiant effort, recording 10 kills and 8 digs in the loss.
"Sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield." Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang said. "Sometimes it just doesn't go your way."
Ironwood Ridge's season fell short despite a solid season that earned a fifth trip to the semifinals in six years.
Flagstaff advances to play Phoenix Arcadia Tuesday at Mesquite High School for the Division II state championship.
"He (Lang) coaches a great team and they have a lot of different tools, we just came out on top which is great for us, not so much for them." Flagstaff coach Beth Haglin said.