For West Valley Preps
Centennial played efficiently Tuesday in the opening round of the 5A State Volleyball Tournament in knocking off visiting No.10-ranked Tucson Cienega, 25-23, 25-18 and 25-20.
The No. 7 Coyotes (20-11) advanced and will travel to face No. 2 Goodyear Millennium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Tigers (42-1) dispatched No. 15 Tucson Marana Mountain View 25-6, 25-10 and 25-9 to move on.
To keep advancing in the Tournament, Centennial will need to play like it did in sets 2 and 3 vs. Cienega (27-11).
“They are a good team and run a very fast offense which kind of caught us off guard a little bit,” Centennial coach Cari Bauer said. “We had some communication stuff going on early (but) when we were in system, we were doing the right things.”
Centennial outside hitters Sommer Kasney and Ashley Lifgren were problematic for the Bobcats, as the duo constantly put pressure on Cienega to dig balls with razor sharp kill attempts.
“We just focused on passing and serving aggressively,” said Lifgren, who finished with a match-high 12 kills. “Once we got on that run there was no stopping us.”
Centennial, which defeated Cienega in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs in three games, won a see-saw opening set but built a 19-12 lead in Game 2 as the Bobcats struggled to put kill attempts in bounds and deal with Centennial’s dynamic offense.
“Our was goal to keep them out of system and try to keep them from their offensive comfort zones,” Cienega coach Heather Mott said. “We knew what we had to do to come in and upset them. We had moments where we did that but when you have that much offensive power and you get to stay in system then you are going to score balls.”
The Coyotes never really felt uncomfortable after closing out Game 2, 25-18. Centennial led wire-to-wire in Game 3, and now has its eyes focused on Millennium.
“I think we are going to compete and it’s going to be a really good game,” Lifgren said. “We have to do exactly what we did tonight and focus on our blocking. We’ll be good if we do that.”
Centennial faced Millennium twice during the season. The first meeting was way back in late August when Millennium prevailed 25-18, 25-16, 18-25 and 27-25. The Tigers also won a 2-set match in the Goldwater Tournament in early September, but a lot has changed since then.
“I am totally confident in these girls that they are going to put it together for Thursday,” Bauer said.