The top-ranked Salpointe Catholic Beach Volleyball team is returning to the state championship after downing No. 4 Mesquite Tuesday evening at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. The Lancers cruised to a 4-1 victory and a chance to take home the program’s first beach volleyball state title. For the Lancers, however, the victory is just a little sweeter, given the history between the programs.
“I’m just so proud of us and our resiliency and our fight and determination to re-write our story. Too many times we were down, maybe losing a set badly, and they just found a way,” Coach Heather Moore-Martin said.
In 2019, then top-ranked Mesquite eliminated the fourth-ranked Lancers 3-2 in the semifinals before winning the championship 3-2 over Fountain Hills. It was a loss that stung for Salpointe, and one they looked forward to avenging the entire offseason.
However, just as the season was beginning to get underway last year, the pandemic brought everything to a grinding halt, cancelling any chance the Lancers had at avenging the previous year’s loss. The extended hiatus from the courts only fueled the intensity behind Salpointe’s hunt for a championship, and it just so happened Mesquite was the obstacle standing between the Lancers and the trophy.
“They really want to work hard at practice and get better at beach volleyball every day and I just appreciate that out of them,” Moore-Martin said.
“I think we’re just all hard on each other during practices and we’re just really competitive and really want to win,” freshman Sophia Hernandez said.
We pushed a lot during practices and it’s just a blessing to be here”
Most of the girls played indoor volleyball together in the fall, where they were able to capture the 4A state title. Now that they’ve had a little taste of victory this year, they’re ready for more. Coach said the seniors on the team have been instrumental in setting the squad up for success.
“These seniors, these two girls, they lead us with a lot of determination and a lot of dedication to the sport. They just said, ‘hey we want to get better and I’m gonna work hard every day to do that.’ So they’ve just shown us what it takes and to sacrifice things for the game,” Moore-Martin said.
The Lancers came out fired up, taking both matches of the first flight. On one court, junior Leah Palomares and sophomore Gabrielle Monge got to work while freshman Megan Muehlebach and junior Jalynn Ransom took care of business on the other. Both pairs won their first two sets to put the Lancers out to a solid 2-0 lead.
In the second flight, Hernandez and sophomore Francesca Pieroni engaged in a back and forth battle the entire match. After Salpointe Catholic was able to win set one 21-19, Mesquite was able to take them the distance in set two before winning it 25-23. In the third and final set, the Lancers found a second wind of energy and powered their way to a 15-6 victory to secure the win.
Their victory would secure the team a birth in the state championship for the first time since 2016.
On the other court, Emma Hugeback and Rylen Bourguet took the first two sets, 21-15 and 21-19 respectively, to get the win and make it 4-0 over Mesquite going into the fifth and final flight.
Brandy Kishbaugh and senior Andrea Owens put up a good fight, but unfortunately fell to Mesquite 2-1. Regardless, the team was still going to have a chance at a title. At the conclusion of the third set, the Lancers stormed the court chanting “State! State! State!”
Salpointe Catholic will return to Casteel High School on Thursday at 6pm to face no. 6 Valley Christian for the D-II Beach Volleyball state title. Valley Christian defeated No. 7 Chandler Prep 3-2 to reach the championship.
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