Campo Verde won six matches four years ago in its first season as a varsity program. Tuesday night, the Coyotes played for the Division II girls volleyball state championship.
Such a transformation in such a short span became evident very quickly in the title match, especially against an opponent with pedigree.
Campo Verde coach Tricia Melfy felt perhaps the stage was a bit overwhelming for her top-seeded team after third-seeded Phoenix Sunnyslope swept the Coyotes, 25-23, 25-12, 25-8, at a packed Mesquite High School.
"It was a tough day to have a bad day," said Melfy, who admitted she rarely recognized her team on Tuesday. "I didn't see it in them in the progression up to this moment, and I thought the semifinal match was good preparation, but there is no way you can prepare for this until you're here.
"... I think the stage got them a little bit."
Campo quickly fell behind by seven points in the opening game. The Coyotes clawed back to within 19-15 before they staved off four game points and nearly pulled even at 24 before Sunnyslope's Felicity Gesina tipped over the game winner.
Despite taking the opening game, Campo's late run was cause for concern to Sunnyslope coach Amber LeTarte.
"I felt like we gave them momentum at the end (of Game 1) so I definitely wanted to start Game 2 strong," said LeTarte.
She got what she was looking for as the Vikings dominated the next two games, including taking the first nine points in Game 3, to claim their fifth state championship in six years.
Sunnyslope did not lose a game in the state tournament.
"I was really caught off guard, even in Game 2," Melfy said. "I thought after Game 1, to only lose by two the way we were playing — we couldn't pass the ball, we missed four serves, we were out of position on defense — but I thought we'd be all right if we just cleaned up a couple things. We never cleaned it up."
Sunnyslope never gave Campo a chance to come up for air.
"I'm not used to us being taken out of our element. We usually do that to others," Melfy said as a couple Coyotes wiped tears from the cheeks as they walked to the locker room. "I don't want to make excuses. Sunnyslope earned it; they played extremely well. We did not respond. I thought we would and we didn't, we just didn't. We couldn't control our own side and I'm not used to that."
The end came too early for Campo's seven seniors, who averaged 31 victories the past three seasons.
"This is a tough stage to lose on, but to go undefeated (in section play) two years in a row and get to the state championship is building tradition for us. Those are things to be proud of," Melfy said. "As a new school, for the seniors to be here today from where they started, the path they took to get here, it was great for them.
"I believe we'll be here again, I really do."
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