After needing to make several scoring runs to win the first two games, the Rincon/University boys volleyball team had to stop one in the third game to advance the final four of the Class 4A/5A Division II state playoffs.
Seniors Brice Nzeukou and Matt McDaniel clinched the quarterfinal win by blocking Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor’s Zach Neilson’s kill attempt, giving Rincon the win 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-22).
“It was mostly Brice on that block, but it got me right here,” said McDaniel pointing to his forearm.
McDaniel finished with 29 assists to go with his block for the No. 2 seed Rincon.
Teammate David Berens gave his team a 24-22 lead when his kill from the back row landed between three diving O’Connor players.
“Something we’ve gotten really good at is playing our game until the end,” said Berens, who finished with 11 kills and five digs. “We turn it on and take the game in the end and we don’t get nervous about it. . . . We don’t care what the score is, we push through it.”
O’Connor, the No. 7 seed, always seemed to have an answer for the Rangers as they erased several leads throughout the three games.
Neilson, O’Connor’s outside hitter, led the team down the stretch with three straight kills toward the end of the third game that tied the game at 22-22.
Rincon plays No. 3 Catalina at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High School in the 4A/5A-II semifinals.
No. 3 Catalina 3, No. 6 Tempe McClintock 0 (25-14, 25-10, 25-20): At Catalina, Jared Simte had 26 assists for the Trojans in the win.
No. 1 Sahuaro 3, No. 8 Cienega 1 (25-19, 18-25, 25-14, 25-14): At Sahuaro, Kyle Tatum had nine blocks for the Cougars and Colin Kennedy finished with 13 kills.
Sahuaro plays No. 5 Ironwood Ridge at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High School in the semifinals.
No. 5 Ironwood Ridge 3, No. 4 Catalina Foothills 1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16): At Foothills, the three-time defending state champs will not repeat.
The Nighthawks were led by Spencer Griffin’s 18 kills.
Class 4A/5A Division I
The Gilbert Mesquite boys volleyball team pushed host-Salpointe to the limit Wednesday.
In the end, however, the Lancers pulled out a hard-fought win 3-2 (27-25, 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 16-14) to advance to the 4A/5A-I semifinals.
“I really thought we were going to win in three, but then we lost that second game and we had to fight back,” said Salpointe’s Chris Winters, who had 13 kills and eight blocks. “It was hard. It was probably one of the hardest games we’ve ever played.”
Salpointe returns to the semifinals for the second straight year where it plays No. 1 Phoenix Mountain Pointe at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Glendale Ironwood High.
Salpointe coach Amy Johnson thinks the close games will only help her team as the tournament moves on.
“I think it’s huge,” said Johnson. “It’s huge to know you can win a five-game match. I don’t think anybody was up three or four or five points. So it’s good to know we can play a tight match.”
Setter Pat Tunnell led Salpointe with 54 assists, 12 kills, seven blocks and seven kills. He also had the match clinching kill in the fifth game.
“We kind of let it go in the second and fourth games,” Tunnell said. “It could’ve been a little quicker but we were expecting it to be a battle and that’s what it was. I don’t know we’re pretty lucky to get out the way we did.”
Class 4A/5A Division I
Friday at Glendale Ironwood HS
• No. 1 Phoenix Mountain Pointe vs. No. 4 Salpointe, 5:30 p.m.
• No. 6 Gilbert vs. No. 10 Glendale Deer Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Class 4A/5A Division II
Friday at Marana Mountain View HS
No. 1 Sahuaro vs. No. 5 Ironwood Ridge, 5:30 p.m.
• No. 2 Rincon/University vs. No. 3 Catalina, 7:30 p.m.