6A volleyball: Quarterfinalists vie for title

November 6, 2019 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Perry and Highland are two of the quarterfinalists in this year's 6A girls volleyball tournament that continues Thursday at sites of the higher seed. (AzPreps365 photo).

Seven of the top-8 seeds in the 6A girls volleyball tournament won their opening-round matches. It's a formidable group.

Top-seeded Perry is looking to break through to its first title match ever. The Pumas have bowed out in the semis the last two years. Corona is out for a fourth trip to the finals. Basha's last best advancement was the semis in 2015. Highland is in uncharted territory with its last quarterfinal appearance in 2010 where it bowed to Gilbert. Xavier has reached the semis or better 14 years in a row with seven titles in that span. The Gators are two-time defending champs. Hamilton remains in search of its first title with three semi appearances in the last five years and two runner-up finishes. Desert Vista has advanced to two semis or better in the last five years (2014 and 2015) winning titles both years. Chaparral was the lone, non-top-8 seed to prevail, topping No. 7 Sandra Day O'Connor in five sets. The Firebirds last advanced to the quarters or better in 2017 - a 5A semifinal berth.

The quarterfinal matchups for Thursday Nov. 7 are: #8 Desert Vista at #1 Perry; #5 Xavier Prep at #4 Highland, #6 Hamilton at #3 Basha and #10 Chaparral at #2 Corona del Sol.

Here's a capsule look at these teams as they go forward from the quarterfinals.

No. 1 Perry -  Power-ranking match record: 15-2. The Pumas losses were both five-set defeats to No. 2 Corona del Sol and No. 3 Basha. The Pumas won the rough-and-tumble Premier Region for the second year in a row and by far the best overall record at 32-3-1. Victories of note -  Two wins each over No. 5 Xavier Prep and No. 6 Hamilton and one each over No. 7 Sandra Day O'Connor and No. 8 Desert Vista. Stat check: Pumas spread it around on the attack with four players with 136 kills or more led by senior Tatum Stall (389) and junior Ella Rud (323). Sophomore libero Jordan Suan (371 digs) and versatile senior Sian Richardson (365) pace the defense. Junior setter Jenna Heller has 1,007 assists.

No. 2 Corona del Sol - Power-ranking match record: 14-3. The Aztecs have won a title and been second twice in the last three years. Their three losses are to Xavier, Hamilton and Desert Vista. The Aztecs won the Central Region title for the fourth year in a row.  Victories of note -- Two over No. 4 Highland and one vs. Desert Vista. Stat check:  Seniors Nicole Newlin and Mady Noble lead the offense with 403 and 375 kills, respectively. Noble is in her fourth season as a key player in the varsity lineup. Senior libero Becca Morse leads in digs with 812 and Noble has 375. Sophomore Anita Babic (656 assists)and junior Ashley Hayden (463) team up for setting.

No. 3 Basha -- Power-ranking match record: 13-4. The Bears were solid to begin the season and have surged even more with the arrival of transfer Jaelyn Hodge. Since Hodge arrived Oct. 2, Basha is 7-1 in power ranking matches. Their losses are to No. 13 Desert Ridge, No. 4 Highland, No. 1 Perry and No. 6 Hamilton. Victories of note: Two over Xavier and one each over Perry and Hamilton. Stat check: Senior Samantha Drewry leads the Bears kills (486) and has added 337 digs, second to sophomore libero Haley Carrington (419). Senior setter Aspen Aldous has 1,115 assists. Hodge has 188 kills in 14 matches, three with 30 or more late in the season.

No. 4 Highland - Power-ranking match record: 13-4. By far the team that has progressed the most since last year is the Hawks, who were 6-11 in prm in 2018. Highland's losses are two to Corona del Sol,  one each to Hamilton and Desert Vista. Highland was runner-up to Corona in the Central Region. Victories of note: No. 3 Basha and No. 8 Desert Vista. Runner-up finishes in two invitationals -- House of Payne and Westwood TOC. Stat check: Kill leaders are junior Samia Bhakta (450), junior Kennedy Williams (272), senior Alayna Roberts (238) and senior Anna Toolson (237). Libero Abby Peterson has 837 digs and seven other players have at least 136. Setter Natalie Palmer has 1,103 assists.

No. 5 Xavier Prep - Power-ranking match record: 11-6. The Gators started fast winning House of Payne Invite and performing well at Durango Invite in Las Vegas in September. Losses are two each to Perry and Basha and one each to Hamilton and Chaparral. Victories of note: Corona del Sol and Hamilton. Stat check: Kill leaders are seniors Bri McKnight (500), Jasmine McKnight (411) and Julianna Westfall (208). Dig leaders are senior Abi Converse (410) and junior Kaori Robertson (309). Sophomore setter Alexa Shiner has 1,175 assists.

No. 6 Hamilton - Power-ranking match record: 10-7. The Huskies have lacked consistent runs and the state tournment is all about consistent play. They lost more region matches than they won and that hasn't happened previously this decade. Losses are two to Perry and one each to Basha, Xavier, Desert Vista, Liberty and Chandler. Victories of note:  Corona del Sol, Highland, Basha and Xavier. Stat check: Sophomores Jordan Middleton (439) and Micah Gryniewicz (309) lead in kills. Senior libero Bella Zapata is tops in digs with 422 and has plenty of company defensively with six teammates with 161 or more. Setters Diana Ethridge (674) and Reilly Babcock (507) share assists.

No. 8 Desert Vista - Power-ranking match record: 11-6. The Thunder endured an up-and-down October, but ended the month on the up. They finished with a three-game winning streak. Earlier in the month they dropped four of five matches. Their losses -- Perry, Corona del Sol, Highland, Xavier, Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe. Victories of note: Corona del Sol, Highland and Hamilton. Stat check: Leaders on the attack are seniors Jennifer Soto (311 kills) and Brooke Blutreich (293). Sophomore Kate Morin leads in digs with 487 and Blutreich has 296. Setting has fallen primarily to freshman Georgia Lee (907 assists).

No. 10 Chaparral - Power-ranking match record: 10-7. The Firebirds avenged two losses to O'Connor in the first round. Their power-ranking losses are two to Sandra Day O'Connor, and one each to Perry, Corona del Sol, Highland, Pinnacle and Liberty.  Victories of note: One over No. 5 Xavier in five sets. Stat check:  Seniors Cassie Seminoff and Kate Fitzgerald are solid on the attack and on defense. Seminoff leads the team in kills with 416 and added 397 digs. Fitzgerald (353 kills) and (521 digs). Senior libero Maddie Felker is tops in digs with 724. Setting is shared by senior Hailey Hertzog (727 assists) and junior Taylor Peters (358 assists).

Note: Statistics are through the end of the regular season.