Arizona girls volleyball season, 2012 edition, is over.
It was one of the most explosive, exciting and surprising seasons in recent memory.
New champions and new star emerged. And star coaches and players that we have known for so long have ended their careers.
Let’s take a quick look back at yet another phenomenal season:
The KEY QUESTIONS heading into the season:
Do you remember these?
1. Can anyone top Horizon?
Our preseason answer: "They are bigger, stronger and more talented than any team in the state. Will anyone in Arizona be able to stop them? it’s legendary status or bust."
Postseason reality: No. We were right. But it wasn’t like we were going out on a limb. Horizon lost just once to an Arizona team this season — to Xavier Prep in the Goldwater tournament without the services of Nikki Hess. This Horizon team will go down as the most physical, imposing team in state history.
2. Will there by any repeat champion?
Our preseason answer: "Only Divisions III champions Northwest Christian and Division IV title holders Veritas Prep seem to have what it takes to repeat."
Postseason reality: In fact, only Veritas Prep repeated. Northwest Christian was the only other team that had a chance to repeat but it ran into new star-already-made McKenna Woodford and Sedona Red Rock.
3. Dark horse teams
Our preseason answer: "In Division I, Mountain Ridge, which returns all of its starters from last season’s semifinal team, is an example. Hamilton and Centennial are also primed to play well. And Desert Vista looks to be back near the top."
Postseason reality: We were right about Mountain Ridge, Hamilton and Desert Vista. But Flagstaff wasn’t even in our preseason top 10 and promptly went 42-0 to win Division II. Tuba City used its talent and momentum to capture its first state title in Division III. And you know about Sedona in Division IV.
4. How will the new power rankings play out?
Our preseason answer: "Desert Vista was a top 8 team but did not make the postseason. Sandra Day O’Connor had a brutal schedule and finished the regular season with a bad record despite likely being a top 15 squad."
Postseason reality: The rankings helped Desert Vista this time. But it again did not help O’Connor. Corona del Sol was this year’s Desert Vista. Higley also was a team that saw itself out of the top 16. Oh, and of course, there was this debacle.
5. No clear cut Player of the Year
Our preseason answer: "In years past, you could pinpoint three players, or even limit that down to one player, who were the big favorites to earn Player of the Year awards. This season has no such player. … Reigning Small Schools Player of the Year Sarah Sponcil and Northwest Christian’s Alexis Patterson are the favorites."
Postseason reality: It’s hard to not pick Sponcil but Woodford did take a Sedona team to the title. In Big Schools? Oof. That’s still tough to decide.
More on DIVISION I
This was our top five in the preseason — 1. Horizon 2. Xavier Prep 3. Gilbert 4. Mountain Ridge 5. Hamilton. Not too far from how it ended. We will miss seeing several players play, those who starred for years but are now set to graduate. Players like Xavier Prep’s Amanda Benson, Hamilton’s Brittany Thomas and Alexa Saba, Horizon’s Hess, Mountain Ridge’s Madison and McKenna Witt and Mary Claire Tuohy just to name a few out of many, many more. We will also miss seeing Xavier Prep’s Tim McHale coach and spew out emotional speeches.
Title match story: Horizon beats Xavier Prep in four.
More on DIVISION II
Flagstaff. Wow. The crow last night wasn’t especially delicious but it was phenomenal to watch Flagstaff looked to be overmatched vs. Arcadia in the title match but still stayed the course, kept playing defense, kept digging like their lives depended on it and come back to win the title and go UNDEFEATED. Probably the most unlikely undefeated team ever. But that’s not to say Flagstaff isn’t worthy. They showed Tuesday night they are. Our preseason top four included 1. Arcadia, 2. Ironwood, 4. Notre Dame Prep. We will miss watching Arcadia’s Izzy Miller dominate. But it will be fun watching Flagstaff’s Courtney Leffel the next three seasons.
Title match story: Flagstaff goes undefeated, completes incredible comes back vs. Arcadia.
For a few thoughts on D III-V, click here.
We will soon be sending our online All-State ballots to coaches. We will also put up a post on Thursday for public All-State nominations.