GILBERT – The top-ranked Salpointe Catholic Lancers are set to return to the DII Beach Volleyball State Championships taking place on Wednesday in Gilbert. Salpointe was able to advance to 12-0 on the season with another sweep while earning the chance to bring home a third consecutive state championship with a victory over no. 4 Northwest Christian on Monday evening.
For Salpointe coach Heather Moore-Martin, this level of success on the sand is exactly what she envisioned when she took the job.
“I’m super proud of Salpointe even giving me the opportunity to start a beach volleyball program, because when I got there, there was no beach,” Moore-Martin said. “Part of the reason I wanted to come to Salpointe was to start beach volleyball in Tucson and we got that going and it’s so cool.”
Getting things started for the Lancers were No. 5 duo Kate Mobley, a freshman, and senior Alyssa Robles. They were able to pick up a 21-15 win in set one and a killer 21-6 win in set two to put Salpointe up 1-0 early in the match.
Meanwhile, juniors Scarlett Isaacson and Gabby Monge held things down in the No. 4 position on the neighboring court, taking set one 21-8. Keeping the momentum going in the second set, they exploded to a 21-3 blowout, giving Salpointe the 2-0 advantage early.
Junior Sophia Hernandez and freshman Caroline Muehlebach kept the momentum going, taking both sets by a score of 21-12 while seniors Rylen Bourguet and Jordan Faircloth were playing in the No. 2 flight on the adjacent court. Bourguet and Faircloth were able to cruise to a 21-6 victory in set one before pulling out a 21-14 victory in set two to give Salpointe a 4-0 lead.
Things were a bit different for Salpointe when it came to the No. 1 duo, with Moore-Martin being forced to find a new partner for junior Megan Muehlebach after her original partner got injured. Senior Francesca Pieroni was forced to watch her team play from the sidelines after suffering a broken ankle at her indoor club practice last week.
Stepping in to play for Pieroni was senior Minda Prideaux, and if people didn’t know better, they’d likely think the two were already playing together as a pair since earlier in the season.
“I really just wanted to take somebody from our sixes, and she’s been great,” Moore-Martin said. “So we chose a senior from our sixes who’s been fighting for the fives all year… She was ready to go and she’s been ready all season to step into this.”
Moore-Martin said one of the greatest things about Megan is it doesn’t matter who she’s playing with, she’s going to play the same. The Muehlebach sisters are daughters of former Arizona basketball player Matt Muehlebach, who is a college basketball analyst with the Pac-12 Networks.
““It doesn’t matter with Megan, she’s just a great teammate,” Moore-Martin said. “She’s going to make whoever she’s playing with play their best volleyball.”
Knowing there was no pressure for them, the ones were able to go out there and just have fun. They cruised to an easy 21-11 victory in set one, but set two was a bit more mentally taxing for them as they had to focus. At one point, the Lancers found themselves trailing 13-7 in set two but rallied to come back and win things 21-18 in the second set to wrap up the day and snag the win.
“It means a lot to these girls who come in everyday and put in the work, and the time and the effort even beyond our practices,” Moore-Martin said. “I’m super proud and really happy to be part of such a great team, and the culture we’ve created together is really special.”
The Lancers will be back in Gilbert on Wednesday to face No. 3 Estrella Foothills for the 2023 state championship as they hunt for a three-peat. Moore-Martin says it doesn’t matter who her girls have to face, it’s just another step in their process of trying to do something special.
“All year long we’ve worked really hard and they’ve put in the work at practice,” Moore-Martin said. “We put in extra time and effort, and everybody from our ones to our tens does the same thing.”