Phoenix Horizon girls volleyball begins defending its title

Phoenix Horizon girls volleyball begins defending its title

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Phoenix Horizon girls volleyball begins defending its title

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The defending champion girls volleyball team at Phoenix Horizon came into the year as the preseason favorite in Division I and has lived up to the hype ever since.

“We’ve had the same pressure on us from Day 1,” coach Valorie McKenzie said. “The expectations on the kids have been high.”

The No. 1 seed boasts a 17-2 record and is undefeated against Arizona schools this year. The team, loaded with talent and experience, is spearheaded by a strong senior core and will no doubt be the one to beat as the postseason begins.

Horizon hosts No. 16 Avondale Westview in the first round of the Division I tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

McKenzie said team chemistry has been a big part of Horizon’s success.

“That’s what’s so special,” she said. “They are undeniable talented, but they are undeniable great people, too. They work really well together.”

A well-balanced, high-powered offense means that every rotation at the net is a dangerous one. Middle blockers Jensen Cunningham, Tess Clark and Natalie Tardy are a huge influence in the middle while outside hitters Sierra Nobley and Christine Johnson anchor the corners. The hitters have combined for 1,166 kills this season with Nobley leading the way with 321 and Clark closely behind at 317.

Setter Lauren Conati and libero Jordan Anderson are the key playmakers in passing and in charge of providing the ammunition to one of the more fiery offenses in the country.

Expect Horizon to cruise through the first two rounds of the playoffs where it could meet last year’s runner-up, No. 5 Phoenix Xavier, in the semifinals.

“That’s going to be a really exciting match, that semifinal round,” McKenzie said.

Horizon defeated Xavier in all three meetings this season, but Xavier finished first at the Nike Tournament of Champions on Oct. 19 (Horizon was third) and is well-represented at the net by outside hitters Mia Teilborg and sophomore Khalia Lanier.

The semifinal opponent also could be No. 4 Gilbert, which will likely face Xavier in the second round and is another team to watch. Gilbert is led by middle blocker Heather Ball, libero Kameryn Hill and outside hitter Kaitlyn Lines.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Chandler Hamilton, propelled a couple of promising underclassmen in sophomore outside hitter Olivia Hallaran and freshmen middle hitter Preslie Anderson, poses a big threat as does No. 3 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor and No. 7 Peoria Centennial.

State girls volleyball tournaments

Division I and II — Opening rounds will be played at high seed location beginning today. Semifinal and final rounds will take place at Mesquite High,

500 S. McQueen Road in Gilbert.

Division III, IV and V— All rounds will be played at Tim’s Toyota Center, 3201 N. Main St. in Prescott Valley.

Tournament play begins Thursday.

Championship matches: Division I: Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at at Mesquite. Division II: Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Mesquite. Division III: Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. at Tim’s Toyota Center. Division IV: Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at Tim’s Toyota Center. Division V: Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. at Tim’s Toyota Center.

Cost: Opening rounds: $8 adults and $6 for students. Semifinal and final rounds: $10 adults and $6 students.

Top seeds: Phoenix Horizon (Division I), Gilbert Campo Verde (Division II), Snowflake (Division III), Phoenix Northwest Christian (Division IV), St. David (Division V).

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