Gilbert nabs NIKE TOC Volleyball gold bracket title

October 3, 2015 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Gilbert High's girls volleyball team started play Saturday with a loss, but three victories later found itself a bracket champion at the 7th Annual Nike Tournament of Champions Invitational in Phoenix.

Gilbert shook off bracket-qualifying loss early Saturday afternoon and proceeded to battle injury-plagued Xavier Prep in the gold bracket it was placed in after losing to nationally-ranked Jesuit High (Portland, Ore.). Gilbert defeated Xavier, 25-17, 21-25, 15-12 -- a Gators team trying to come to grips with losing setter Callie Jones two weeks ago to a dislocated finger and USC committ and one of the nation's top prep players in outside hitter Khalia Lanier. Lanier suffered an ankle injury three days ago in a match against Hamilton and hasn't played since. Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant expects Lanier to be sidelined a couple weeks.

Gilbert didn't rely on one attacker in staving off Xavier -- the Tigers usually don't. Kaitlyn Lines, Makenna Martin, Krystal Blair and Alexa Rockas combined for 30 kills in the match. Xavier was led by Lanie Wagner with seven kills and Makena Patterson with six. Wagner willed Xavier to the win in the second set with a block and four kills among Xavier's final seven points of the set. Wagner also served the final four points of the set.

There certainly was no shame in the match Gilbert lost on Saturday, nor was there in Xavier's defeat that landed it in the gold bracket. Jesuit  has won its last 56 matches in a row counting the seven it won at the TOC this weekend. Jesuit went on to win the elite bracket (platinum) beating P.K. Yonge (Gainesville, Fla.) in two sets. Jesuit qualified for Platinum play by beating Gilbert, 2-1. The set Jesuit lost to Gilbert was the only set it's lost this season and only the third set it's dropped the last two years.

Xavier, which dropped three of seven matches in the tournament, lost its platinum qualiifier to P.K. Yonge -- another nationally ranked program along with the Gators. Before PK Yonge lost in the platinum final, it hadn't lost a set this season except to Xavier earlier in the day. Arizona teams that qualified for the platinum bracket were Desert Vista, Hamilton and Corona del Sol. Desert Vista lost in the semifinals to Jesuit and Hamilton bowed to P.K. Yonge in the first round. Desert Vista defeated Corona in the first round of bracket play.

Arizona teams managed to win titles in four of the other six brackets. Ironwood Ridge won the Sapphire (2-0 over Mountain Ridge), Sandra Day O'Connor topped Mesa High 2-0 in the Diamond, Horizon bested Valencia 2-1 in the Silver and Desert Edge took down Tempe Prep for the Emerald crown.