Williams Field seemed to have everything going its way heading into its first-ever boys volleyball state semifinal appearance.
The third-seeded Black Hawks had a partisan crowd, despite traveling 90 minutes south for the match, and appeared to have a solid gameplan for handling defending champion Tucson Catalina’s front line.
But what Williams Field had no answer for, though, was a propensity for unforced errors, mistakes that piled up and contributed mightily to a 25-20, 25-19, 25-18 loss to Tucson Catalina on Friday night at Amphitheater High School.
“There were definitely some errors that we could have cleared up,” Williams Field coach Rich Lanzone said. “And Catalina certainly took advantage of those (errors).”
A rough estimate put at least 30 percent of No. 2 Catalina’s points as the result of Black Hawk errors, whether it be faulty serves, hitting wide to avoid a block or miscommunications in the middle of the court.
“I think that was part nerves and part the long trip we had to make,” said outside hitter Brian Nelson, one of five senior starters who helped Williams Field (18-2) make its deepest run in three years of varsity play. “We still should have been more on our game, though.”
Catalina (19-0), which will face top-seeded Catalina Foothills Saturday afternoon in a rematch of the 2010 title game, never trailed during the match. And while Williams Field’s unforced errors did play a role in the outcome, Catalina coach Heather Moore-Martin gave just as much credit to her team’s ability to make its opponent “play more volleyball."
“We force longer rallies, and most teams aren’t used to that,” Moore-Martin said. “Most teams, like (the Black Hawks) are probably used to when they hit it over the net, it goes down. But we send it back, and when that happens it made them look like they were back on their heels. I think we won every long rally, and that’s a key.”
Williams Field held its own with Catalina early in the first game, with the score tied at 5-5 before the Trojans started to pull away and eventually keep a comfortable four- or five-point lead.
The second game got away from the Black Hawks early, as mistakes and strong blasts from Catalina middle hitter Marcelious Gibbs led to a quick 7-1 deficit that Williams Field could never rebound from.
The final game was more of the same, with Catalina jumping ahead and holding the lead throughout. Down 23-15, Williams Field mounted a small 3-0 run before Catalina closed it out with a tip that fell in between the Black Hawks’ defensive alignment and a blast over the net that was dug out of bounds to end the match.
Despite coming up short Friday, Lanzone felt his team peaked in the playoffs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” he said.