Ironwood Ridge High School took a workmanlike approach into its boys volleyball match with Marana on Wednesday.
After a slow start, the steady Nighthawks took control in a 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 25-15) win over Marana in the second round of the Class 4A Sonoran Region tournament at Palo Verde High School.
“We try to be a little more businesslike, a little more process-oriented,” Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang. “It was two contrasting styles. We wanted to maintain control of the match.”
Ironwood Ridge, the No. 2 seed in the region, will play No. 1 Catalina Foothills for the Sonoran Region championship Thursday at Palo Verde. Foothills had a bye into the title match.
Marana showed high energy early in taking the lead in the first game, but Ironwood Ridge was able to battle back.
“It’s a pretty good feeling when they come out and they are being clowny with you,” said Sean Ham, referring to his feeling Marana wasn’t taking Ironwood Ridge seriously. “Then we finally step it up and beat them down. I definitely could feel a shift of momentum.”
Ham finished the game with 32 assists and five digs.
Ironwood Ridge was in control throughout the final two games.
“The guys stayed composed,” Lang said. “We’re in the postseason now and in a situation where they want to be playing well, but I think we came out a little tight.”
The outcome of the region tournament has no effect on the seeding of the state tournament, which begins next week.
Ironwood Ridge, Marana and three-time defending state champion Catalina Foothills all have high-enough Power Rankings points to place them in the 16-team state playoff field.
As of Wednesday night, Ironwood Ridge sat at No. 5 and Marana No. 12 in the Power Rankings, meaning the two will likely play again in the first round of the 4A/5A Division II state tournament.
“It’s kind of a weird thing to play these guys knowing we have to play them again when the stakes are much higher,” Lang said.
Even so, Lang looks forward to facing Foothills on Thursday, believing the experience gained against a high-quality opponent will help more than it could hurt his team.
The teams split their regular season matches.
Foothills swept Ironwood Ridge 3-0 on April 9 and Ironwood Ridge swept Foothills 3-0 on April 22.
• More region volleyball tournament scores and results, page 5C