Appearances by Highland’s girls volleyball team in the 5A state tournament lately have not been plentiful. So this year’s Hawks, who finished third in the Fiesta Region, were determined to make their stay at least more than one round.
Mission accomplished Wednesday night as Highland dominated the first game and withstood a challenge by Horizon in the second to sweep the Huskies, 25-13, 25-22, in the first round of the state tournament at Highland High School.
"This was a good start for us," Highland coach Renee Regoli said.
"This is the first time in five years we’ve been to state. We went out and played with no pressure. We were just excited to play."
Highland (26-10) advances to Friday’s quarterfinals to play No. 1 seed Xavier at 5:30 p.m. at Glendale Arena. Horizon, which finished third in the Desert Valley Region, concluded the season 28-16.
Highland never trailed in the first game and was clearly the sharper team in all phases. They pulled out to a 10-4 lead, prompting a Horizon timeout, and pushed it to 20-10, again forcing the Huskies to try to regroup with a timeout.
Horizon gave up points four times on service errors and struggled passing in the first game.
"We weren’t there mentally the first game," Horizon coach Valorie McKenzie said. "We made a lot of mistakes, and then Highland was on fire. It wasn’t a good start."
Senior Meagan Bluth led the way for Highland with six kills and two blocks. Mercedes Montford added six kills and three blocks. Katherine Johnson had four kills. Setter Jamie Lunt had 20 assists for the Hawks.
Horizon dug in the second game and grabbed the lead a couple of times. But Highland scored the final three points to break a 22-22 tie.
Leah Nelson paced Horizon with eight kills and Leah Flatness added seven.
Meagan Tracey had eight digs for the Huskies.