No. 13 Ironwood Ridge gave no. 5 Basha a run for its money on Wednesday afternoon in the Division I Beach Volleyball playoffs, forcing things to boil down to the fifth and final match of the afternoon. Unfortunately for the Nighthawks, they struggled to put away the Bears , allowing Basha to survive and advance by a score of 3-2.
On court three, Ironwood Ridge’s first pair up was freshman Kristina Brei and sophomore Melanie Merrill. The Nighthawks were able to secure the win in set one 22-20 before absolutely dominating in set two to win the set 21-11. Their win gave Ironwood Ridge a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile on court six, Junior Daniella Alameda and freshman Jacey Olsen struggled, dropping both set one and two, allowing Basha to come back and tie things up.
The third match got underway on court three, with senior Jaedyn Azares and senior Gabrielle Suarez hoping to give Ironwood Ridge the edge. However, the pair struggled against Basha, dropping set one 21-17 and set two 21-19.
In match four, junior Allison Birtcil and senior Sydni Soloway were able to secure the victory after going the distance. After winning the first set 21-14, the Bears rallied back to take set two 21-11 and force a set three. However, Birtcil and Soloway kept Ironwood Ridge alive by winning the third set 15-10 and tie things up at 2-2.
In the fifth and final match, the energy really shifted and the Bears were fully riding the wave. The Bears were able to win set one 21-10 before securing the victory for the team in set two 21-12.
For the Nighthawks, it was a bittersweet moment; While they feel blessed to have been able to have a season this year, this is the third consecutive season (excluding 2020) of getting eliminated in the quarterfinals.
“Every time we’re able to get out it’s a blessing, so this is something we definitely enjoyed doing,” head coach Bill Lang said.
“I’m honestly just really proud of us. We upset Corona and we had never beat them before, so that was really big for us. Honestly as a senior, I’m really just cherishing this season. Even though it ended, sadly, now, I think we played really well and we fought and we deserved the season that we had,” senior Sophia Gomez said.
Fortunately for Ironwood Ridge, the team will have a large opportunity to continue working and playing together before next season as many of them all play indoor volleyball for the Nighthawks, too. While they’ll miss the seniors of 2021, the underclassmen are looking forward to the future of the program.
”We figured we’re either winning or learning,” coach Lang said as he reflected on the season. “Taking all that we’ve learned from those squads and coming in here, I was happy that they were able to play with that intensity and changing up a few things, and they fought,” Coach Lang said.
“Each individual person is so good and they’re so young, so they have so much time to learn new things. I think we have a lot of potential and I think we’ll be really good next year,” Birtcil 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