Horizon High has enjoyed a nice run in girls volleyball the last four years. The Huskies would like to make it a fifth.
Horizon shoots for a second consecutive Division I title to go with two it won at the 5A-II level in 2009 and 2010 this postseason. The Huskies have the credentials to make it happen. They've reached state tournament semifinals each of the last five seasons.
Divisions I and II begin first-round play on Tuesday Nov. 5 at the site of the highest seed. Ditto the quarterfinals on Thursday Nov. 7. Semis are Saturday Nov. 9 in the afternoon at Mesquite High School with the finals set for Tuesday Nov. 12 at Mesquite HS.
Divisions III, IV and V play over two days — Friday Nov. 8 and Saturday Nov. 9. All matches are at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. First round and quarters are Friday and semis and finals are Saturday. The D-V final is Saturday at42 p.m. followed at 6 p.m. by the D-IV final and the D-III final finishes up play at 8 p.m.
Full brackets with date, time and site of matches can be found on AIA365.com. Click on sports/activities, then volleyball, then brackets. Here's a brief look at each division and how they shape up:
DIVISION I: Last year's title match — Horizon over Xavier. Horizon has a formidable resume for the opposition heading to the tournament. The Huskies posted a 35-2 record (18-0 record in power-ranking matches) and did not lose a match to an Arizona school during the season, including three invitationals it participated in. Led by kills leader and all-around standout Sierra Nobley, the tallest block around with 6-4 and 6-2 players at the net and solid defense there aren't any weaknesses for the Huskies. Not that they can't slip up once, but they're likely not to get any type of challenge until the semifinals. The division has four teams – perhaps six — with the ability to win the title. Add Hamilton, Xavier, Gilbert, Desert Vista and Sandra Day O'Connor to Horizon as the contenders. Xavier has been a semifinal staple, reaching that round or better for eight consecutive years. The Gators have gone titleless since 2010 and could matchup with Horizon in the semis. Xavier is led by senior Mia Teilborg and sophomore Khalia Lanier.
DIVISION II: Last year's title match — Flagstaff over Arcadia. The top five teams in the D-II power-rankings are Campo Verde, Ironwood Ridge, Sunnyslope, Paradise Valley and Tucson. That's where the title contenders end. Campo Verde was the only D-II team to win all its power-ranking matches and sustained most of its losses to D-I schools in invitationals. Campo Verde presents a senior-dominated lineup that plays well together led by Haley Christiansen. The Nighthawks are much the same and thrive on defense. Their lone power-ranking loss was to D-I Hamilton and its other losses to D-I teams in invites. Ironwood Ridge has reached the semis three of the last four years. Sunnyslope has a recent, strong tradition and doesn't shy away from playing quality competition. Tucson High has played a decent schedule and split matches with Campo Verde in a mid-October tournament at Marana Mountain View. The teams met in that tournament's title match. Paradise Valley played a rather weak section and freedom schedule. The Trojans played only two teams in their power-ranking matches that qualified for the D-II playoffs — Sunnyslope (loss via sweep) and Verrado.
DIVISION III: Last year's title match — Tuba City over Safford. The prowess in D-III is spread all over the state and makes it tough to handicap. But many of these teams manage to meet fairly often in invitationals and to some extent freedom games. An indication of that is last year's final four, which consisted of a No. 2, 4, 9 and 11 seed. Those seeds were Tuba City (northern), Monument Valley (northern), Safford (southern) and Seton Catholic (Valley), respectively. This year it's similar with the top eight consisting of four northern schools, three Valley and one southern — Snowflake, Safford, Flagstaff and Monument Valley are the top four in this year's power rankings and they've taken turns beating up on one another. Flagstaff won the D-II title last year and has dropped to D-III this year so being among the contenders isn't a problem. Defending champ Tuba City is at No. 7 this year and runner-up Safford (No. 2) reached the D-III final last year. Safford lost its top hitter to injury a couple weeks ago so the Bulldogs may have to dig deep to nab the title.
DIVISION IV: Last year's title match — Sedona Red Rock over Northwest Christian.Two schools — perhaps three — are center stage in the hunt for the crown with recent championships. Only one gets the prize this year. The top three in the division are Northwest Christian, Veritas Prep and Sedona Red Rock. Veritas won the D-V title last year and has moved up a division. Sedona Red Rock is the defending D-IV champ and NWC won the D-IV title in 2011 and 2010. NWC has enjoyed the upper hand, sweeping Veritas and Sedona Red Rock in regular-season matches. The division's top player is Veritas' Sarah Sponcil. NWC is led by Alexis Patterson. Sedona Red Rock suffered quite a bit of turnover from last season and may be more of a darkhorse than contender.
DIVISION V: Last year's title match — Veritas over Valley Lutheran. St. David was at the top of the power rankings all season. It ended up No. 1 with an 18-0 record in power-ranking contests. Even more impressive, the Tigers lost only ONE set in those 18 matches. Five other schools from St. David's section qualified for state so that's nearly 40 percent of the tournament participants that St. David beat at least once. St. David is led by hitters Chelsey Stover and Kayla Bradford and setter Rylie Vargas. The next highest seeded teams are from St. David's sectiion — No. 2 Desert Christian, No. 3 Pima and No. 4 Valley Union.