Macey Gardner can't just flip a switch. Like anyone else. she has her ups and downs on the volleyball court.
But when things are going well, they go really well.
The Gilbert girls volleyball team upset Xavier in the Division I semifinals on Nov. 5, but found itself trailing Horizon 2-0 in the title game two days later.
Enter Gardner, who led a furious rally as Gilbert pulled out the victory, 14-25, 24-26, 26-24, 25-19, 15-10.
She had 32 kills in the match, a season-high, capping an illustrious career with a championship.
"There are definitely times where I feel like I can take control, but it's not like I can turn it off and on," Gardner said. "I was just blessed to have it in that last game."
Gardner finished her senior season with 407 kills, 220 digs, 38 aces and 38 blocks to become the Tribune's Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.
The Arizona State-commit had 18 kills in the semifinals to help the Tigers knock off four-time-defending champion Xavier after losing to the Gators three times during the regular season.
Gilbert is an elite program, but didn't know exactly how it stacked up against teams like Xavier and Hamilton this year, something that Gardner said helped push the team.
"That doubt is what made us work hard in the weight room, work hard in the gym," she said.
While there is talent around her, multiple East Valley coaches pointed to Gardner as the force that drove Gilbert.
She had 421 kills as a freshman, 590 as a sophomore and 251 as a junior, but the Tigers were knocked out in the semifinals each year. Once they got over that hump, Gardner said Gilbert refused to stop without a title, even down by two games.
"We knew we hadn't come that far to lose in three games," Gardner said. "We knew we had to put up a fight."
Gardner had the game-winning kill in the third game, eight more in the fourth and six in the fifth and deciding game. The Tigers won a state championship in 2006, two years before Gardner joined the team, and now she leaves as another banner gets lifted.
"This was a perfect season," Gardner said.
All-Tribune First Team
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Macey Gardner Gilbert Sr. OH Player of the Year capped tremendous career with state title
Bianca Arellano Xavier Sr. S Two-time All-Tribune first-teamer had 1,294 assists as Gators' leader
Nikki Hess Horizon Jr. OH Team MVP had 336 kills, 41 aces, 270 digs for D-I runners-up
Haley Lawless Seton Catholic Sr. OH Bounced back from injury-plagued junior year with spectacular season
Amanda Benson Xavier Jr. Libero Force in the back row had 449 digs on the season
Izzy Miller Arcadia Jr. MB Led E.V. in kills with 471 as Titans made Division II championship match
Player of the year: Macey Gardner, Gilbert
Coach of the year: Joe Hesse, Gilbert: The composure behind the Tigers in beating four-time defending champion Xavier in the semifinals and then rallying from two games behind to beat Horizon in the Div. I championship match.
All-Tribune Second Team
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Penina Snuka Gilbert Jr. OH Kept defenses honest opposite Macey Gardner
Stacey Benton Arcadia Jr. S All-around player can hit, pass and serve well; led state in aces
Abby Hornacek Xavier Sr. OH Led team in aces (85), second in kills (376) and blocks (37)
Brenna Wagner Mtn. Pointe Sr. OH Solid hitter and can play defense, too
Sydney Schumacher Desert Vista Jr. Libero Led Division I in digs and switched positions late to help team
Brittany Thomas Hamilton Jr. OH Led team in kills (268) and aces (46) following position switch
Apache Junction: Alexa Jimenez, Sr., MB; Carly Reid, Jr., L;
Arcadia: Jenson Barton, Jr., OH;
Basha: Sydnee Arnson, Sr., S; Kehaulani Baker, Sr., OH; McKayla Ferris, Jr., MB;
Cactus Shadows: Suzi Desalvo, Sr., OH;
Campo Verde: Ally Dell Amico, Jr., OH;
Chandler Prep: Ashlyn Cross, Sr., OH;
Corona del Sol: Jamie Burt, Sr., OH; Haley Kestelott, Sr., L; Kasey Kiefer, Jr., OH;
Desert Mountain: Rheanna Sorenson, Sr., OH;
Desert Ridge: Maggie Niu, Sr., OH; Kaja Sandberg, Sr, MB;
Desert Vista: Brooke Honeycutt, Jr., MB; Vanessa Wesley, So.,D;
Gilbert: Cat O'Brien, Sr., OH; Sarah Beene, Sr., S;
Hamilton: Payton Bock, Sr., MB; Lauren Jacobsen, Jr., OH; Alexa Saba, Jr., L;
Highland: Casey Johnson, Sr., OH; Breanna Veith, Sr., OH;
Horizon: Lexi Anderson, Sr., L; Jensen Cunningham, So., MB;
Horizon Honors: Hannah Brown, Sr., S; Valerie McPherren, Sr., L;
Marcos de Niza: Diamond Glaspie, Sr., OH; Tineille Waggoner, Sr., S;
Mesa: Umata Tafuna, Sr., S; Kelcee Munk, Jr., OH;
Mesquite: Emma Bergeson, Jr., MB;
Mountain Pointe: Kayla Meester, Jr., OH; Lexie Nelson, Sr., MB;
Mountain View: Mackenzie Skousen, Sr., OH; Morgan Carman, Sr., L; Milani Pickering, Sr., OH;
Notre Dame: Ali Svorinic, Jr., S; Genevieve Pirotti, Jr., OH; Megan Salamun, Jr., MB;
Paradise Valley: Taylor Yantis, Jr., OH;
Pinnacle: Cassie Hendricks, Jr., OH;
Queen Creek: Jazmine Hanna, So., MB; Raianna Dobbs, Sr., O; Jeni Garvin, Sr., S;
Red Mountain: Emily Franklin, Jr., MB; Heather Leavitt, Sr., OH;
Saguaro: Caylee Vasquez, Sr., L; Anaya Whyte, Sr., OH;
Scottsdale Christian: Lauren Homrich, Jr., OH; Chloe DeAngelis, So., S;
Seton Catholic: Lauren Betlach, Sr., OH; Leslie Cole, Sr., S;
St. Mary's: Gianna Kioa, Jr., OH:
Tempe Prep: Monica LeBeau, Sr., L; Kaitlin Shroll, So., OH;
Valley Christian: Lindy Dyer, Jr., OH; Kendra Lorbeck, So., S;
Williams Field: Rachyl Thomsen, Jr., MB;
Xavier: Mia Teilborg, So., OH; Megan O'Sullivan, Jr., MB.