Top-ranked Salpointe defeats Estrella Foothills for third consecutive state championships

QUEEN CREEK — The Salpointe Catholic Lancers made history on Wednesday, becoming only the second team in AIA history and the first D-II beach volleyball team to win three consecutive state championships. In a battle against No. 3 Estrella Foothills, the Lancers were able to clinch the victory to bring home the title in one of their toughest tests of the year.

“I think they’re a really good team,” Salpointe coach Heather Moore-Martin said. “They had some nice partnerships and they really made us work hard to get here. It wasn’t easy and it was touch and go there for a second, but I think that we did a good job of handling their pressure and rising.”

“I think since we hadn’t played them earlier in the season it was a little tough not really knowing what we were getting into,” junior Megan Muehlebach said. “They were a really scrappy team. They weren’t super tall, but they could read well and get the ball up so I think it was tough adjusting to that… They’re a really good team.”

While games can often come down to the top flights of players, Salpointe’s loaded roster helped get a lead early, putting Salpointe up 2-0 after a sweep by both the fours and the fives. With flights three, two and one all playing at the same time on different courts, things became a bit hectic to keep up with; But Salpointe knew they were in the driver’s seat going into it.

For senior Rylen Bourguet, it’s a situation she was incredibly familiar with. In fact, she’s successfully helped Salpointe clinch their previous two championships with a victory from her flight. Tonight, her and her senior partner Jordan Faircloth were able to get the job done once again and seal the deal for the trophy and banner.

“It’s kind of surreal, it’s like deja-vu,” said Bourguet. “It’s super exciting and I’m super honored to get the chance to close it out for our team.”

For Moore-Martin, there was a bit of concern surrounding the Wolves since they hadn’t faced them yet this season and she was unsure what to expect. With senior Francesca Pieroni out with an injury, it added to the pressure for the earlier flights to get the job done and not leave it up to the final flight.

“We were really scared about that,” Moore-Martin said about Pieroni being sidelined for the game. “I really felt confident in the fives, the fours, the threes and the twos. I really felt that we could win it without her, but I think that Minda Prideaux stepped in and got us here.”

“I think [Prideaux] did a great job,” Muehlebach said. “She came into the fire and really did a great job. She was super confident and super ready and she did a great job of staying positive working with me with all my silly superstitions. She was just a great partner overall in that terribly tough situation.”

The victory was a great way to not only cap off the season after the girls had worked so hard, but it was also awesome to send her seniors out on top.

“I definitely think they were the most supportive and the best senior class we’ve had in a while,” Muehlebach said. “We all love them so much, they’re so nice to all of us and they’re super great role models.”

“I’m really just proud at what the girls are willing to sacrifice in order to be good at beach volleyball,” Moore-Martin said. “It takes weekends. It takes being cold. It takes being really hot… I’m just really proud of their efforts and what they’ve done and how they’ve committed to the game.”

While the Lancers will graduate four seniors this year, Moore-Martin knows she has a strong pipeline of up-and-coming players ready to step up and go for the Lancers when the time comes next year. The returning players know they have big shoes to fill, but the challenge doesn’t seem to phase them, only motivate them.

“I think some of us, like the juniors and sophomores, are gonna step up because we’re also learning from them how to be good leaders,” Muehlebach said. “We’re gonna have to step up and try to follow in their footsteps and do a good job supporting our team and setting a good example.”

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