Sunnyslope ended a one-year hiatus from the girls volleyball championship circle Tuesday night and did so in dominating fashion.
Using fast starts in every set, Sunnyslope got stronger and stronger as the short night progressed in sweeping top-seed Campo Verde for the 2013 Division II state title at Mesquite High School. Scores were 25-23, 25-12 and 25-8.
Sunnyslope (37-7), which had its streak of four consecutive state titles snapped in last year's first round by eventual D-II champion Flagstaff, won its sixth title in school history. All have occurred in the last eight years (2006, 2008-2011) under current head coach Amber LeTarte. The Vikings got their game rolling in each set, led by senior outside hitter Jenny Thompson. Thompson collected 24 kills in the three sets, including 11 in the first set. That was the only close set and not until the very end when Campo Verde (39-8) made a late run to make it closer than it was.
“We wanted to be focused, serve aggressively and see if we could put pressure on,” LeTarte said. “We didn't think this would be easy. We came here with great respect for them and their coaching staff. We were able to play our game, stay focused and we never let up.”
Thompson and most of her returning seven teammates, weren't on the championship team in 2011. Only senior setter Allison Spencer could claim that. Thompson's goal Tuesday was to leave it all on the court and she responded as did her teammates.
“This has been so exciting, the most exciting season I've played,” Thompson said. “We were focused on starting off strong, and that worked. This is the best team I've been on.”
Thompson had five of her 11 kills in the first set among Sunnyslope's first six points.. The Vikings built seven-point leads three times in the set. The last was 19-12, but Campo managed to scratch back and pull within 24-23 thanks to a trio of kills by Misha McDowell. Sunnyslope's Felicity Gesina put down the kill to end the set.
At that point, Campo Verde coach Tricia Melfy felt her team was ready to make it a match.
“They caught us off guard,” Melfy said. “But after the first set I thought we were going to get going. We couldn't pass, missed four serves and didn't play well at all. They came out strong the second set, and they kept on coming.”
Sunnyslope added a hitting partner for Thompson in the second and third sets as sophomore hitter Skylar Wine began putting down winners. Wine finished with 11 kills — all in the final two sets.
“This was a tough day to have a bad day,” Melfy said. “I really did think we would play better. We're not used to being taken out of our element. We usually do that to the other team. Kudos to Sunnyslope. They played a great match. We didn't respond like I thought we would.”
Helping out the offense for Sunnyslope was Piper Sperduti. She served five aces of the eight the Vikings had for the match. She served five consecutive points in the second set and six straight at one point in the third set. Sunnyslope opened the third set leading 9-0 with Libby Fleury serving those points.
“This is a great group of girls,” LeTarte said. “Libby is our most consistent server so it's nice to start with her and have Jenny in the front. I'm glad they all played so well and got to go out the way they did.”
For Campo Verde the runner-up trophy is another progression for the program that just completed its fourth varsity season. That four years saw a losing record in 2010 and playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 (each one longer) and now the 2013 title appearance.
“I know they are disappointed,” Melfy said of her squad that didn't lose a power-point match the last two seasons and won two section titles. “This was a bummer. But they've started a tradition for our program. That's important.”