By George Witkowski
For West Valley Preps
It was everything as advertised and then some with the Class 3A No. 2 Northwest Christian Crusaders and Class 2A No. 1 ranked Scottsdale Christian Eagles volleyball match playing out in dramatic fashion.
After Northwest Christian (30-5 overall) won the first match by a 25-23 score, the Eagles (31-7) rallied for wins of 25-19, 25-13, 25-21.
Both teams came in having played tough tournament and regular-season matches and that is the way Northwest Christian coach Jenna Hope wanted it to be. This match was a test for both schools 12 days before their respective state tournaments start
“I would rather play strong competition,” Hope said.
Northwest has seven sophomores, two juniors and one senior to Scottsdale’s four freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and two seniors.
The high number of sophomores in large roles, including 6-foot-2 Reagan Hope, who has committed to the University of Oregon according to her coach and mother, makes for an interesting future.
“We have a lot to learn, but they’ll get better and better,” coach Hope said. “To be perfectly honest, with you, we didn’t play our best game, and obviously, they hate losing. What stood out (for us) was when the defense took over and we had good kills and good blocks.”
Also, it was a given that it would be a tough match, as both teams were familiar with each other from club volleyball.
Going into the final set, Northwest Christian and Scottsdale Christian stayed close to each other at 15-all. Scottsdale pulled ahead on a pair of non-returnable serves and two additional points for a 19-15 lead.
Sophomore outside hitter McKenzie Wise got Northwest to within 20-16 on a kill, followed by a kill from teammate Hope. Hope added two more kills, but Scottsdale got a kill from sophomore middle hitter Sophia Wadsworth. Scottsdale’s freshman outside hitter Daniel Laylah picked up a block as the Eagles added two more points to preserve the win.
The Crusaders and Eagles were back-and-forth in the third game up to 11-10 Eagles, before Scottsdale pulled away with 10 consecutive points, en route to the 12-point win.
In the third set, Hope did what she could with seven kills and her teammates passed and set well, but the Eagles were there at every turn.
Scottsdale Christian got strong play throughout the match from senior outside hitter Lauren Ohlinger and junior middle hitter Caroline Montgomery.
Northwest Christian sophomore setter Molly Kipp had a strong night. Hope’s kill got Northwest to within 16-15 but a couple of errors and kill from Scottsdale’s freshman defensive specialist Marley Dickerson gave the Eagles a 20-16 lead.
Both teams passed and served well, but the Crusaders were trading points and Scottsdale Christian scored the final three points an ace, a serve and error to win.
After Northwest took a brief 4-0 lead in the first set, it was a very close and tightly-contested, as both teams were separated by no more than two points at any time in Northwest’s two-point win.