VOLLEYBALL: Ironwood Ridge tops Rincon in 5 sets

September 12, 2017 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Morgan Gappmayer (Andy Morales/AZPreps365.com)


The initial AIA/MaxPreps power rankings will be released next Thursday (Sept. 21) and several teams from Southern Arizona are expected to be seeded near the top of their respective conference rankings. Two of those teams, Ironwood Ridge and Rincon/University, met on Tuesday night and the Nighthawks came away with a dramatic 25-22, 18-25, 25-21, 21-25,15-12 win.

Ironwood Ridge came in with a 3-2 record, with one of those losses coming via a 3-0 sweep to Salpointe, and Rincon/UHS was sitting on a perfect 9-0 record. The Rangers survived a 3-2 match at Cienega last Tuesday to remain undefeated but the Nighthawks came in with emotion and a new weapon to help turn the tide.


The Nighthawks played without their head coach, Bill Lang, due to the sudden death of his nephew earlier in the day. Lang had coached at the school for a Southern Arizona record 975 matches but he was understandably absent Tuesday night and associate head coach Kathy Franklin filled in nicely.

The secret weapon came in the form of senior Morgan Gappmayer. Gappmayer was the only player from Southern Arizona placed on the National Preseason All-American watch list by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) but the standout hitter started the year hampered by an ankle injury and saw limited action against Salpointe (5 kills) last Thursday.

Gappmayer entered the match at Rincon/UHS near the end of the third set and she finished the match with 14 kills. She was almost unstoppable.

With the match tied 1-1, Gappmayer checked into the third set with Ironwood Ridge down 19-16. Breanna Boch scored and she was followed by Taylor Salese. Gappmayer put down her first kill of the night and then Salese put the Nighthawks up 20-19 but Cate Webb tied things up and then Camille Hanzlick put the Rangers back on top, 21-20, with an ace. Gappmayer took over.

Gappmayer scored on three of the next four points and the Nighthawks took the third set 25-21. It was the turning point of the match.

“I’m just getting back into it,” Gappmayer said. “I’m appreciating playing volleyball and this is my passion.”

The Rangers took a 21-18 lead in the fourth set but Gappmayer made it 21-19 and then Boch served up an ace to make it 21-20 but the Rangers regrouped thanks to a massive kill from Loraya Rocha, a block from Jordan Grier and a set-winner by Grier to close it out, 25-21, to force the fifth set.

The Rangers jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the deciding set but Gappmayer recorded five of her kills in the set to cut the lead down to 11-9. The Rangers went back up 12-9 but a service error and a kill from Katie Birtcil helped give the Nighthawks a 13-12 lead. Birtcil scored twice from left side for the 15-12 win.

“We have to work on staying in there longer and being more aggressive,” Gappmayer added. “But we showed we have the endurance to get it done.”

Ironwood Ridge (4-2) will host Canyon del Oro (4-2) on Wednesday night before heading off to the Durango Fall Classic in Huntington Beach and Rincon/UHS (9-1) will travel to Highland (7-4) on Thursday night.

Grier, Webb, Jennifer Angier and Reilly Salkowski came up big for Rincon/UHS at the net with Hannah Parish distributing even chances while coming away with 30 assists.

“Our team has better dynamics this year,” Parish said. “We are better friends than in the past and we come with better skills. Our older players have paired up with some of the younger ones and it has made us a very close team.”