Lancer Beach Volleyball looks to defend State Title Wednesday

Queen Creek — The top-ranked Salpointe Catholic Lancers will be looking to defend their Beach Volleyball State title on Wednesday evening against the second-seeded Flagstaff Eagles at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. After cruising to a 4-1 victory over the No. 5 Mesquite Wildcats on Monday, the Lancers will have one remaining practice before it’s time to shine. For the athletes, they know all eyes will be on them. 

“I definitely think the target’s on our backs,” junior Rylen Bourguet said. “[Flagstaff] is going to come in and they’re going to want it just as much as we want it.”

“We‘ve got to work our butts off on Wednesday,” coach Heather Moore-Martin said. “We’ve gotta get back on the court tomorrow, get some things done and be ready for a battle.”

Since Moore-Martin took over the Salpointe volleyball program years ago, the Lancers have built quite the pedigree in the state as one of the top indoor and beach volleyball programs. Bringing home numerous championships, the Lancers have grown a target on their back throughout the years, but the added attention isn’t anything they’re incapable of handling. With so much experience playing under pressure, it’s certainly a benefit to the Lancers heading into the finals. 

All season long, the fours and fives set a solid foundation for the Lancers and eased the pressure for the pairs to follow. Monday night was no different. Juniors Jordan Faircloth and Alyssa Robles kicked things off by snagging a quick 2-0 victory in the first flight and giving the Lancers an early 1-0 lead. 

“It’s really our fives that are taking care of business,” Moore-Martin said. “They’re getting that win and making everyone feel comfortable.”

Junior Gabriella Monge and sophomore Scarlett Isaacson were also able to pick up a win to keep the momentum going, sliding past Mesquite 21-19 in the first set before powering ahead to a 21-15 win in set two. With the second win secured, a lot of pressure was alleviated for the Lancers remaining three pairs. 

Up next were the threes, sophomore Megan Muehlebach along with her partner Bourguet. After having a 12-10 lead midway through set one, the Lancers powered through to a 21-11 win and put Mesquite in a must-win situation.

Despite the Wildcats taking a 3-0 lead to start out the second set, Bourguet and Muehlebach were able to roar ahead to a 21-10 victory and solidify punch the ticket for the Lancers’ trip back to the Championship. 

“It was really exciting, because it was a realization of, ‘Oh, we’re going to state again,’” Muehlebach said. “As a younger player, that’s just really exciting to see because growing up it was always a goal of mine.”

“We knew what we had to do,” Bourguet said. “Just get the job done, and we did.”

Sophomore Sophia Hernandez and junior Francesca Pieroni were able to let loose on the sand knowing their trip to state was already finalized. Taking the first set over the Wildcats 21-17, the twos closed things out quickly in the second set by picking up a 21-8 win. 

Closing the night out were seniors Emma Hugeback and Jalynn Ransom. Since the team was already leading 4-0, the only impact their play would have would be concerning where they’d fall in playoff seeding for individual pairs. 

After falling behind 11-7, the deficit quickly started growing for the Lancers. Fighting until the end, Mesquite was able to take set one 21-16. 

Things initially looked like they’d be in favor of Salpointe at the start of set two, where the Lancers were able to work their way to an 11-1 lead. However, the lead quickly dwindled, and Mesquite was able to quickly come back and make it 14-12, riding the heels of Salpointe. 

Tying things up at 17, Mesquite was able to get the momentum shifted back behind it’s ones as they worked to pick up a win for the Wildcats. As both pairs battled back and forth to pick up the win, they forced the game to extra points, where Mesquite prevailed 24-22. 

“I’ve just been so proud of those two all year,” Moore-Martin said. “They’ve just made steady improvements regardless of their outcomes, so they’ve done a really good job of just wanting to get better… They could have thrown in the towel a long time ago, but as you can see, they fought until the very last point.” 

Salpointe will look to add another trophy to the case on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. For Moore-Martin, the Eagles will prove to be a new challenge, as she’s not really sure what to anticipate from them. 

“Flag, they kind of stay up there in the hinterland,” Moore-Martin said. “We don’t really know a lot about them; Nobody seems to. I got to kind of look at them just a tad, but they look good, they look really good. They look physical and they look ready.”

The Lancers will return home for one final team practice this season before the pairs begin preparing for the individual playoffs next week.

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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