No. 6 Salpointe sweeps No. 3 Eastmark to reach 4A state semifinals

QUEEN CREEK — The No. 6 Salpointe Catholic Lancers will advance to the 4A state semifinals following a 3-0 victory on the road over No. 3 Eastmark. Despite a slow start in set one, the Lancers were able to come together in what coach Heather Moore-Martin said was a great team win.

The Lancers will now prepare to play at No. 2 Estrella Foothills on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Estrella Foothills defeated No. 7 Saguaro in four sets on Monday night.

“We’ve been talking all week about how it’s going to take every single one of us,” Moore-Martin said. “We made changes to the lineup and people who don’t normally play were out there, and were out there making a big difference.”

A prime example, noted Moore-Martin, was junior Belle Russell.

Russell has not seen any action since getting injured a month ago, but she stepped up Monday night and made a huge difference in the middle.

The beginning of set one was largely Eastmark, as the Firebirds were able to jump out to an early 8-2 lead. It took some time, but Salpointe was able to work its way out of the deficit slowly but surely, eventually tying the first set at 17.

“I think we were just a little shaky to start because we weren’t quite as ready as we needed to be,” Moore-Martin said. “We needed to get off the bus, get in the gym and get ready to play some volleyball.”

From there, it was a back-and-forth game, as they continued tying it up until they reached 23 points. At that point, Salpointe was able to deliver the final two points needed to win the first set, taking a 1-0 lead in the match and securing the first set, 25-23.

“I just told them, play Lancer volleyball,” Moore-Martin said. “Let’s steady out, let’s play our game. Let’s look to each other, which has been a huge part of this season just them looking to each other. Once they started doing that, and stopped playing as individuals and started playing like a team, I thought we did a much better job.”

The second set included both teams battling it out to take the lead and establish dominance from the start.

After being tied at 8, Salpointe was able to go on a small run to take an 11-8 lead and force Eastmark to use a timeout. The Firebirds came out of the timeout and were able to put up four unanswered points, prompting Salpointe to use a timeout.

After working to tie things at 16, Salpointe was able to edge forward and take a 20-16 lead in the second set. Eastmark attempted to rally back but ultimately fell short, as Salpointe took the set 25-22.

Going into third set, all of the momentum was behind the Lancers.

They were able to take an early 6-2 lead, and each time the Firebirds would start catching up, Salpointe would go on another run. Trailing 19-15, Eastmark called a timeout which seemingly gave them some energy, as they came back out and tied it at 19.

Salpointe was able to dig deep and do what was needed to get the job done, kicked into action with a kill from Alexia Hutchins. From there, Salpointe went on to take the third set, 25-20.

“Our senior leadership had been excellent — our setting from Sophia Hernandez and our liberoing from Megan Muehlebach,” Moore-Martin said.

“It’s just been fun the last two weeks. I just feel like we’ve been hitting our stride. We’re having a lot of fun in practice and they’re doing some incredible things. So it’s just really rewarding.”

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