Salpointe Catholic senior superstars Brandy Kishbaugh and Andrea Owens closed out the final event of their high school careers on Thursday night with a second place finish at the D-II Beach Volleyball Pairs State Championships at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. While it was shy of the gold medal mark they had set for themselves, it was a phenomenal year for them as they’d only recently taken their skills to the sand.
“Me and Andrea were indoor players, so beach was new to us this year. We’d played before, but not like this. Not together, so I think that we just really learned how to work together on the beach and it’s just a completely different game,” Kishbaugh said.
Kishbaugh and Owens started out their high school careers by winning an indoor volleyball championship in Fall 2017 behind a dominant team loaded with seniors. As the only two freshmen on roster at the time, the experience helped prepare them for the big stage later on.
In 2018, Kishbaugh and Owens helped the Lancers reach the indoor state championship, yet again, where they ultimately fell short against Greenway, but at least were able to take away more valuable lessons from the moment.
What happened following the end of that season was ultimately the start of a huge personal transformation process for both young ladies. When everything came to a grinding halt last year with the pandemic, schools were forced to shutter early and gyms were closed for access.
With the virus still being so new, and so many questions still unanswered at the time, many remained in strict lock down. With the girls confined to virtual interactions, it set up a number of potential barriers to overcome in the following months.
As the school year eventually began, mostly virtually across the state, students were allowed to begin a phased-in return to fall sports and activities. Being two of the three returning seniors on the team, all eyes were on them as to how to handle the somewhat stressful situation surrounding the uncharted waters of a pandemic season.
Doing it all with grace and class, Kishbaugh and Owens, along with their other senior indoor teammate Bianca DeVitis, helped Salpointe bring home the 2020 State Championship title for indoor volleyball back to Tucson.
Never before playing beach volleyball, the two decided to give it a whirl in their last season. While it took some adjusting, it became something that helped make them better overall players while bringing new challenges.
The season didn’t come without minor setbacks, though, as both girls had to battle through some injuries and were forced to be sidelined. The injuries meant the pairs were shuffled around a bit, but it only helped solidify the bond between the seniors.
Salpointe went on to advance all the way to the D-II State Finals for the first time since 2016, where the Lancers were able to capture the title 4-1 over Valley Christian. With such an incredibly strong up and coming team, Salpointe was able to claim the team victory in the second flight.
After winning the beach volleyball team championship, Kishbaugh and Owens entered the pairs competition as the top seed. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start at first, as they dropped their initial set of the opening round 21-19 to seniors Grace Abrams and Layne Lease, but they battled back to win the next two 21-19 and and 15-8 to advance to the quarterfinals, being played the same day just a short time later.
With some time to game plan and focus, the pair buckled down and put away seniors Allison Howard and Avery Dunn of Deer Valley, punching their ticket to the semifinals on Thursday.
In the semifinals, Kishbaugh and Owens opened things up with a dominant performance against Canyon del Oro senior Katie Call and junior Morgan Hains, defeating them 21-11 and 21-9 and advancing to the final. On the other side of the net would be Northwest Christian seniors Reagan Hope and McKenzie Wise, a talented tandem that had been playing together in one way or another for the last six years.
While Kishbaugh and Owens gave it their all, Hope and Wise were able to take home the gold, winning the sets 22-20 and 21-17. It might not have been the storybook ending one could have wished for, but it still helped put one final stamp on their legacy at Salpointe.
“We’ve been friends for almost six years now, so it was almost a given that we were going to be a good pair together. We just love each other so much and we fought a lot through this year, and the past couple games were a little bit rough, but we figured it out,” Owens said.
Salpointe held its graduation on Saturday, May 15 at the Tucson Convention Center, just two days after winning the D-II beach volleyball team title and a few days before the pairs championships. After winning the title, the school surprised the team by telling them they’d no longer have to wait ten years before their hall of fame induction, along with Kishbaugh and Owens being allowed to wear their hall of fame medals at graduation.
“Walking into graduation, it was pretty cool. We had lots of medals on,” Kishbaugh said as she grinned.
“Clinking all the way around, super loud” Owens chimed in, her face lighting up with happiness while reminiscing on the moment.
“People were looking at us, especially when we were walking across the stage because it was just like, ‘clunk, clunk, clunk.’” Kishbaugh said.
In the fall, Owens will be attending North Texas to play indoor volleyball. As of now, she’s planning to use her fifth year of eligibility to hopefully play beach volleyball at another school.
Meanwhile for Kishbaugh, she’s still undecided as to what her future holds. She’s planning to go on some visits over the summer and is talking to some schools now, and coach Heather Moore-Martin says she’s hoping her strong senior year will bring about more offers in the near future.
“Hopefully by June I’ll know where I’m gonna go,” Kishbaugh said.
“Andrea is going to play indoor, but I think they both would have a future in beach,” coach Moore-Martin said.
The duo will depart with a lasting mark on the Lancers’ volleyball program and a well-deserved spot in Salpointe history books.
“I’m just incredibly proud of these two and what they’ve done this year. Taking us to an indoor title, then getting us to a beach title, and then being here in the final of the pairs, it was just an incredible year because of their commitment to the sport and their commitment to each other,” Moore-Martin said.
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07