Boys volleyball state tournament outlook
When: May 4 through May 11
Where: First round at neutral site; second round, quarterfinals at higher seed; semifinals and finals at Gilbert High (1101 E. Elliot Rd., Gilbert)
Format: Twenty-four teams, single elimination. Top eight seeds get first-round bye. Doubleheader for first and second rounds.
Favorite: Highland — The Hawks are 14-2 in power points and flexed their muscles by winning the Brophy Invitational a few weeks back. Ryan Morrison leads a group which made the state semifinals a season ago and is aiming for more. Highland’s two power points losses this season came to Mesa and Gilbert, and each were in five games, so there doesn’t seem to be any team in the state capabable of overwhelming this group.
Contender: Mesa — The Jackrabbits won the preseason Chandler Wolf Howl Invitational as well as their own tournament. Mesa doesn’t have the same historical prestige as other programs, but has been one of the best teams in the state this year from start to finish. It has only dropped one power point match — to defending champion Gilbert on April 11 — and has experience. J.T Hatch leads the way for the Jackrabbits, who are looking for their first boys volleyball title.
Darkhorse: Gilbert — The Tigers were the favorites last year and came through with the championship, but lost a lot of talent from that team, including Player of the Year Cody Martin. Gilbert hasn’t won a tournament, but with the power point wins over Highland and Mesa this season, the potential is there for a run.
Outlook: Gilbert was the preseason favorite last year, the top team heading into the tournament and the eventual champion. Mesa and Highland are the two clear favorites in 2013, but it’s a coin-flip on which team deserves the title of favorite. The gap isn’t very big between them and the other contenders, as programs like Gilbert, Brophy, Desert Vista and certainly in the mix. Mesa and Highland will meet on Wednesday in the regular season finale for both teams, and the winner of that match will likely be considered the team to beat heading into the postseason. However, any of these five teams has a legitimate shot to win it all. Perry, Mountain View and Hamilton could make a nice run with a good draw.