Off night in Gilbert stops Sunrise semifinal bid quickly

Sam Ganczaruk
For West Valley Preps

Sunrise Mountain kept searching for a way to control the momentum Thursday against host No. 3-ranked Gilbert Campo Verde but ultimately the No. 6 Mustangs were eliminated from the 5A State Playoffs in straight sets – 25-18, 25-21 and 25-23.

“We just didn’t swing and hit the ball as well as we normally do,” Sunrise Mountain coach Bob Levardo said. “We were just not at our best tonight, but that doesn’t take anything away from them.”

Sunrise Mountain (23-12) couldn’t find an answer to slow down Campo Verde’s outside hitter Caitlin Dugan. The senior, who is committed to play for Texas Tech next fall, would continually end Mustang rallies with one of her game-high 28 kills.

“We would take the lead and they would get it right back,” senior middle blocker Madison Harris said. “We couldn’t get ourselves back out of that hole, there was nothing we could really do about it.”

Campo Verde (26-16) will face No. 2 Goodyear Millennium in the semifinals at 5:45 p.m. Monday on their home court with a berth in the title game at stake. The Tigers (42-1) knocked off No. 7 Centennial in four games – 25-21, 25-23, 18-25 and 25-16.

The Mustangs hoped to get off to a better start but they never lead in the opening game, only tying the set once 9-9. Campo Verde scored four straight points to go ahead 13-9 and never looked back in the 25-18 win.

“Their outside hitter (Dugan) is really good,” Harris said. “We had a hard time stopping her tonight.”

Sunrise Mountain kept pace in Game 2 and with the score tied 7-7, the Mustangs rattled off five straight points including two Harris kills and three hitting errors by Campo Verde to lead 12-7. But a timeout stalled the rally and the Coyotes got back in rhythm, going on a 18-9 run to close out Game 2 25-18.

“Our girls did a good job of staying calm and composed,” Campo Verde coach Tayler Bader said. “Anytime we’ve been down this season, we were resilient and have an answer for what they were giving us.”

Campo Verde and its raucous home crowd didn’t want to give Sunrise Mountain any hope of a comeback in Game 3. The Coyotes jumped out to a 6-1 lead but the senior-laden Mustangs clawed their way back to a 9-9 tie with two kills by Jocelyn Teichman, a service ace from Courtney Luxton and a Campo Verde hitting error.

Sunrise Mountain looked to be forcing another game after a Payton Harmann kill made it 18-20 and three plays later Harris slammed a ball down the middle to tie the game at 21.

But Campo Verde went right back to Dugan, as the senior put two more balls away for the final two points of the match in the 25-23 victory.

“To us it is a very successful season moving up to 5A,” Levardo said. “To watch this group of seniors grow for these four years it has been great. I am sorry to see them go, it is tough.”

Sunrise Mountain finished last season as state runners up to two-time defending 4A champions Tucson Salpointe Catholic and made the leap to 5A this season. The eight Mustang seniors believe that they have set the groundwork for continued success.

“I think people now know who we are and know that we are a good school that can compete with these higher 5A level teams,” Harris said.

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