For West Valley Preps
QUEEN CREEK – The Ironwood Eagles’ Cinderella boys volleyball season may have ended in the quarterfinals but they have plenty to look forward to.
“My team has very little experience,” said Ironwood coach Lisa Lopez. “Even my most experienced players only played club for one year.”
After pulling off the longshot upset of No. 1 seed Tucson Rincon/University in the round of 16, the Eagles stayed close on Tuesday night in Queen Creek before being eliminated by No. 8 Casteel in straight sets, 25-21, 28-26, 25-20.
Lopez said the youth of the team is something Ironwood will build on.
“We have a sophomore outside hitter, who has been playing two and a half months now. I have a middle who is starting, who has played two and a half months,” she said. “It’s hard to compete experience-wise with some of these kids who have been playing year-round especially with each other.”
Lopez said her most experienced players — the setter, libero and another outside hitter — have only been playing three months every year.
“So they’ve had nine months experience,” she said. “I think they did a hell of a job. I am proud of them.”
Ironwood was looking to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2016, when they finished as state runner-up. In 2017, Ironwood went out in the round of 16 and in 2018 lost in a play-in match.
Casteel, in its first year with seniors, faces Gilbert Campo Verde in Thursday’s semifinals.
This is the second time that Ironwood played Casteel this season. Casteel won the previous match 3-1.
“Casteel is an awesome team,” Lopez said. “If I have to lose it was nice losing to them. They were gentlemen.”
In its second straight appearance in the postseason, Casteel lost in a play-in match a year ago.
Colts coach Ryan Meyn said this is what the seniors have worked for.
“My seniors have been grinding year after year to get us not just to a final four but to a state championship match, that’s our goal” he said. “We are two matches away from that.”
Meyn said the first round matchup against another Glendale school, Raymond S. Kellis, prepared Casteel for Ironwood.
“I honestly think we might have taken them a bit lightly,” he said. “We lost the first set, then realized, ‘hey we better play’ and beat them 3-1. We had a lot of information and tape and we knew what we were in for.”
Meyn said they knew they were in for a challenge when Ironwood beat the top seed in the first round.
“We knew when they beat Rincon it was going to be a battle,” he said. “That was the toughest 16 seed I have ever seen and they gave us a fight every single set.”