The final rankings for 4A, 5A and 6A will be released Wednesday morning and here’s what we should expect:
In 5A and 6A, the top 24 teams are in the playoffs with teams ranked 9-24 taking part in the Play-In Tournament set for Thursday, Oct. 25. In 4A, the region champions are in the playoffs automatically with teams ranked 9-24 also taking part in the Play-In Tournament.
The rankings for teams 1-8 will not be released on Wednesday but the 16-team brackets will be released Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on AZPreps365.com.
In 6A, No. 28 Tucson finished 8-2 in the 6A Metro Region to take second place behind North (9-1) but the Badgers are ranked outside of the top 24 despite finishing the regular season on an 8-2 run including the last three in a row.
In 5A, No. 10 Ironwood Ridge beat No. 9 Cienega 3-0 Tuesday night to capture the 5A Southern Region title. More importantly, the win might push the Nighthawks into the top eight to avoid the Play-In Tournament. Either way, both programs will host at least one more match in the postseason.
In that match, sophomore setter Sophia Gomez recorded 35 assists with Katie Birtcil cashing in on 23 kills. The duo was almost unstoppable as the Nighthawks withstood constant pressure from the Bobcats.
The tandem connected on a point to put the Nighthawks up 22-19 in the first set but a block from Ashley Robinson and another from Jaymeson Hardin helped cut the lead down to two points. Birtcil connected again to hold off the comeback but a service error, a block from Caylee Walden and an ace from Faith Young tied things up 24-24.
Gomez switched it up and she found fellow sophomore Sasha Ross in the middle and Sydney Baumgardner put down a block to preserve the 26-24 win to go up 1-0.
The Nighthawks took a 16-11 lead in the second set but senior setter Annabelle Somoza found outside hitter Robinson in a stretch that saw the Bobcats outscore Ironwood Ridge 6-1 to tie it up 17-17. The teams went back and forth with Cienega middle Holly Stutz putting down a block to tie it up 24-24 but Gomez went to Birtcil twice for the 26-24 win to go up 2-0.
Cienega made another run in the third set to erase an 18-15 deficit. In a flurry of misses, the Bobcats took advantage and went on an 8-2 run to go up 23-20. Back-to-back blocks from Baumgardner and Gomez and a kill from Andrea Vigil flipped the set to put Ironwood Ridge up 24-23.
Cienega had five set points down the stretch but Abigail Corbett came up big for the Nighthawks to tie the set up 29-29 and then again for the 31-29 clincher.
Vigil recorded nine kills to compliment Birtcil and Somoza collected 19 assists to lead Cienega. Robinson had 10 kills and Stutz had four game-changing blocks.
No. 14 Empire, No. 15 Marana and No. 16 Mountain View will be watching the rankings closely Wednesday morning to see if they are hosting or traveling on Thursday. No. 18 Rincon/UHS should be traveling on Thursday and No. 25 Buena might get in with No. 24 Williams Field losing on Tuesday night.
In 4A, No. 3 Salpointe and No. 5 Canyon del Oro will skip the Play-In Tournament while No, 10 Catalina Foothills will get to host on Thursday. No. 24 Amphitheater is in with their 4A Gila Region championship.
The 3A regular season ends on Thursday but No. 8 Tanque Verde swept No. 13 Pusch Ridge to claim the 3A South Region Tuesday night. The 2A and 3A Play-In Tournament is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30.
At this point, No. 22 Sabino is playing to join Tanque Verde and Pusch Ridge.
In 2A, No. 13 St. Augustine, No 15 Tombstone and No. 22 Desert Christian are safe for postseason play. St. Augustine and Desert Christian took the two automatic berths from the 2A South Region and Tombstone looks to be ranked high enough to get in.
No. 21 Benson is still playing.
The 1A Conference does not have a Play-In Tournament but No. 3 St. David and No. 9 Bowie/San Simon have cliched playoff spots from the 1A South Region. No. 18 Immaculate Heart as an outside shot at the 16-team bracket set for Friday, Nov. 2.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com