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No. 2 Cienega boys volleyball falls 3-0 to Casteel in State Championships, ends season 20-1

It was a battle between the two top teams in the state on Saturday as top-ranked Casteel took on No. 2 Cienega in the 2021 5A Boys Volleyball State Championships, where the Colts stunned the Bobcats by sweeping them 3-0 to claim the title. It was an emotional game, and with fans allowed back inside the venue, and packed into the stands, the already electric energy inside the gym continued to intensify as the match progressed.

Set one got underway with Casteel jumping out to an early 5-2 lead. From there, Cienega was able to bring it within one, but it was a game of cat and mouse as the Bobcats tried to take the lead until around the midway point. However, back-to-back kills from Casteel allowed the Colts to breakaway to a 14-10 lead. From there, Casteel was able to run to a 25-15 victory to take set one.

Cienega started set two off a little stronger than the first, but unfortunately a couple of controversial violations led to Casteel taking the 5-4 lead. From that point, Casteel was able to keep building off that shift in momentum gained off the Cienega violations, climbing all the way out to a 20-12 lead.

The Bobcats were down, but not out, and they put forth their best rally in order to stay in the set. Despite that effort, it was not enough, as the Colts were able to close out set to 25-20 and take a 2-0 lead.

Cienega was in a must-win situation going into set three and the boys knew the pressure was on. You could see the seriousness on their face as they lined up on the court and served the ball to start things off.

It started with a kill by Casteel, and the team worked its way out to a 6-3 lead. Flustered, the Bobcats kept putting their best efforts forward, one player even chasing a ball out of bounds and hitting a railing in an attempt to keep the play alive. After miscommunication between players allowed Casteel to take a 13-7 lead, Cienega head coach Heather Mott called a timeout.

The timeout may have been too little too late for the Bobcats, as Casteel came back out knowing they were just 12 points away from a title. They continued to build on their lead, jumping out to a 19-11 lead, but it involved some controversial calls that understandably had coach Mott worked up.

Officials issued her a red card, and it only further extended Casteel’s lead and helped propel them to a 25-14 victory along with clinching the title of 5A State Champs.

After the final point was scored, the Bobcats quickly made their way out of the gym to take in what had just unfolded. It was a crushing moment for the Cienega Bobcats, as they were a perfect 20-0 on the season, dropping only five sets total all year going into the championship.

The disappointment was only amplified by the fact there were no championships last year, as Cienega was already hungry after being upset by ALA-Queen Creek in the 2019 playoffs.

”They’re an amazing team and they should not hang their heads today, they should go out and celebrate,” Casteel senior Kyler Evans said.

While the team will be losing seven seniors this year, the remaining five juniors and freshman on the squad will all return with a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from this season and a motivated work ethic ready to battle.

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

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