Boulder Creek has made a habit of reaching the big-school boys volleyball final of late. Chandler High will be there for the first time.
No. 2 seed Chandler High was taken to five tough sets by surprising No. 6 seed Gilbert to advance to the first title game in the sport in school history. Scores were 25-19, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-12.
Following that match, No. 4 Boulder Creek knocked off No. 1 Brophy Prep in four sets, 25-20, 11-25, 25-20 and 26-24 to reach its third final in four years. Boulder Creek was also champ in 2014 and runner-up twice (2007 and 2008) in the past decade. These 6A semifinals were played Wednesday night at Mesquite High School. Chandler and Boulder Creek meet Friday May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Mesquite High for the championship.
"These have been the best three months of my life," Chandler coach Bobby Robson said, feeling the exhileration of making it to the title game. "We were down 2-1 last night and got int done in five and then had 2-0 lead tonight and still went to a fifth set. I was glad the last set was to 15. Gilbert kind of had our number the last couple sets. I was thankful it didn't go to 25."
Chandler has made a remarkable turnaround under Robson the last couple years from a team that was 5-26 in 2015 to a .500 team (18-18) last year. Chandler is 31-4-4 this season.
While Chandler has relied quite a bit on junior opposite Jonny Bowles, they've learned to chip in on the attack as the season's progressed taking pressure off Bowles. Unoffiically for the match with Gilbert, Bowles and sophomore outside Braxton Bradbeer registered 14 kills apiece. Middle blocker Mason Mullins checked in with 11 and Jalen Gibson-Starks seven. Bowles served a couple points in the final set, including an ace and Mullins had a team-high three kills in the set.
It was Gilbert's aggressive serving that began making a difference in the match for the Tigers. Gilbert knocked off No. 3 seed Perry in five sets on Tuesday night to reach the semis.
"That was the only way we were going to have a chance," Gilbert coach Joe Hesse said. "We have a lot of seniors. They went down fighting. Our serving did a lot to get them out of system, but the last set six (service) errors was too many."
Gilbert (21-13-3) was led by Parker Smith with 16 kills, TJ Gerdes with eight and Ridge Howard with seven.
Defending champ Boulder Creek, under first-year head coach Taylor Stallman, alternated routs with Brophy the first three sets
Brophy had the first set seemingly in hand with a 16-8 lead, but Boulder Creek delivered a huge surge to steal away the set. Boulder Creek ran off the next 11 points to take a 19-16 lead and prevailed with ease.
It was all Brophy in the second set as the Broncos bolted to a 16-4 lead and didn't falter in a 14-point romp. The third set went back Boulder Creek's way, The Jaguars never trailed and despite the final of 25-20, weren't threatened.
The teams finally gave account of the prowess both possess in the fourth set. Three points was the biggest lead for either team. It was tied a final time at 24, but Boulder Creek got the winning margin via a Brophy service error an errant attack for match point.
Boulder Creek's top attackers this season were instrumental in guiding the win in the fourth set. Senior outside hitter Patrick Ross had six kills in the set and sophomore outside Jackson Hickman had four. Both unofficially had double-digit kills for the match.