Reigning Rings: Salpointe Beach Volleyball repeats as State Champs

Queen Creek — Salpointe Catholic’s strong culture of success in athletics continues to thrive, as the Lancers will have yet another championship team to induct into its hall of fame. On Wednesday evening, the Lancers repeated as the D-II Beach Volleyball State Champions, crushing the Flagstaff Eagles 5-0 to defend the title in dominant fashion. 

“It’s just such a different dynamic with this group,” coach Heather Moore-Martin said. “It’s a different attitude at practice, a different attitude with how they went about their business, I think this team was a lot more in tune to how to win the beach doubles game and not just playing volleyball. Each team had their own method to solve the puzzle and were really committed to learning tricks.” 

Salpointe’s fours and fives were up first, looking to set the tone for their teammates and alleviate some pressure. Following Monday’s semifinal win over Mesquite, Moore-Martin noted how consistent both pairs have been for the Lancers, as they’ve really been the key to success this season. It was no different on Wednesday, as juniors Jordan Faircloth and Alyssa Robles shined big under the bright lights. 

Plowing their way to an easy 2-0 victory, the fives took both sets one and two over Flagstaff by a score of 21-11 to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead. 

Also playing at the same time on the second court were the fours, where sophomore Scarlett Isaacson and junior Gabriella Monge were taking care of business for the Lancers. Feeding off the energy, Isaacson and Monge were able to blow past Flagstaff 21-5 in set one, while holding off the Eagles second set rally with a score of 21-17 to make it 2-0 early. 

“It just makes it more comfortable,” Moore-Martin said. “I think we had a good game plan going in… But it’s really just about our ability to want to stay in the present moment and not get too wrapped up in, ‘this is the state tournament.’” 

With the chance to clinch the Championship for the Lancers, junior Rylen Bourguet and sophomore Megan Muehlebach took the court. For the threes, the pressure was on. Despite a rough start to the first set, Bourguet and Muehlebach were able to claim control and work to a 21-14 victory in set one. 

All eyes were watching as set two unfolded, as a victory would lock-in the championship for the Lancers. Remaining focused on the task at hand, Bourguet and Muehlebach were able to pull away in the middle of the second set and snag a 21-13 to seal the deal. 

“Honestly, the whole season I’ve been looking forward to that specific moment and I’ve been kind of wanting that the whole year,” Muehlebach said. “Knowing we actually did get that and we were the team to seal the deal was really exciting.”

“Exactly,” Bourguet said. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

You’d have never guessed from watching her play, but Muehlebach powered through a nasty upper respiratory issue that created issues for her breathing all night to help her team get the win. 

“That’s Megan Muehlebach,” Moore-Martin said. “She’ll do whatever it takes. She’ll run through a wall. She’s just like, ‘I’m here.’ There would be no inkling in her mind she was going to miss tonight no matter how she felt.”

Muehlebach said the biggest struggle for her was making sure she kept a good mindset. 

“When you’re sick, you obviously get really tired very quickly, so I’ve been out of breath the whole time and just trying to remind myself, ‘You’ve got to get through it, not just for myself but for the rest of my team,’” Muehlebach said. “[Bourguet] said something similar to this on Monday of when it gets tough, it’s not just for you it’s for the team.” 

While the threes were in the process of locking up the title for Salpointe, the twos got their play underway on the second court. Sophomore Sophia Hernandez and junior Francesca Pieroni worked their way to a 21-14 victory over Flagstaff in set one and a 21-10 victory in set two to keep the sweep alive. 

With just the ones left to play, the only pressure was for state pairs seedlings. Seniors Emma Hugeback and Jalynn Ransom struggled a bit in the first set, as the Eagles were keeping pace with the Lancers the entire time. It wasn’t until the end of the set the Lancers were able to break away to the two points necessary to pick up the win, taking the first set 22-20. 

Set two was the most dominant play Flagstaff had all day. After taking a 3-0 lead from the start, Salpointe was never able to answer. Slowly but surely, the Eagles continued to fight, picking up a 21-13 victory in set two and forcing a third and final set.

“We just needed to make a couple adjustments about what we were doing,” Moore-Martin said. 

“Mainly it was making the play,” Hugeback said. “We were kind of beating ourselves there and making some errors, but I think knowing what we need to do and knowing how to beat them based on our strengths and weaknesses really pulled us together and inspired us as a team.”

Each team was feeling the pressure, but Salpointe dialed the intensity back up in the third set. After a back and forth battle over who would take the lead, the Lancers were finally able to break away towards the end of the set and pick up a 15-12 victory over the Eagles. 

For the senior duo, being able to close out their high school careers with another team championship was monumental. 

“It’s really exciting, honestly, especially with this team,” Ransom said. “I have a lot of love for this team and I’ve grown to love everybody on the team and have a relationship with every single one of them, so I’m really proud of us all for getting a win at the end of it.”

Hugeback followed up by saying, “I’m just proud of my partner because she did so good!” 

“I’m just so happy for both of them and their futures and what they have to look forward to,” Moore-Martin said. “They’re both amazing girls and I’m so happy they were able to kind of just listen to some feedback we were giving them and put it to work.”

The season may have come to a conclusion for teams, but there is still the playoffs for pairs coming up in the next week. While the dynamics may shift a little, the team will still have a few more opportunities to spend time together before it’s over for good. 

The 2022 AIA Beach Volleyball Pairs playoffs begin on Monday, May 2 with finals taking place on Wednesday, May 4 at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. 

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 @LittWithBritt

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