It's a disservice to the quality of play displayed by both teams to call Arcadia's volleyball playoff victory at Glendale Ironwood on Thursday a sweep.
However, that's how it will go in the books.
No. 6 seed Arcadia (27-4) claimed all three sets by the thinnest margin possible to send No. 3 seed Ironwood (30-7) home 25-23, 25-23, 27-25 in the Division II volleyball state quarterfinals.
Arcadia will face No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Mesquite H.S. in the first Div. II semifinal match.
"Ironwood is an unbelievable team, not only those two middle blockers, but that outside hitter," Arcadia coach Josh Olshan said. "We raised our game to their level. This year is so wide open. There's eight or nine teams that can win it."
For the second straight year, computer numbers forced these programs — considered among the top contenders in the division — to meet in the second round. Arcadia also claimed the 2011 quarterfinal 22-25, 25-14, 24-26, 25-14, 15-11.
Though the rematch went quicker, it was, in a sense, closer as both teams struggled for breathing room.
In game one a kill by Ironwood senior middle blocker Megan Powers was wiped out by a net violation, tying the score at eight. Arcadia ripped off five more points in a row to take command 13-8.
The Titans pushed their advantage 20-12 before the Eagles stormed back. When Arcadia inadvertently set up a kill by Ironwood senior outside hitter Kaila Gladden, the home team was within two at 22-20.
Two long serves by the Eagles — including on game point — allowed the Titans to take the game. Senior middle hitter Izzy Miller powered the visitors with six kills, including two launched from the back row.
"Izzy was phenomenal. She barely made any errors tonight," Olshan said.
Arcadia jumped out to a 7-3 lead but game two was tighter throughout. Ironwood called a time out down 17-12 and responded with six consecutive points, most of them set up by the serve of junior middle blocker Amy Hollowell.
Senior opposite Jensen Barton put the visitors back on top with a kill and a serve Ironwood couldn't handle. Powers surged back with two kills, a tip and a block to regain the advantage at 23-22.
But Miller and Barton responded with emphatic kills to set up game point. Ironwood dug four spikes to stay in it before Miller hammered the winner down the line.
Beyond its two big hitters and the sets of fellow senior Stacey Benton, the Titans garnered key points through their serves. If their three college-bound seniors and freshman Amy Benton weren't picking up aces, they were forcing the Eagles to scramble in defense, which led to spikes from awkward spots or bumps to send the ball back over.
"According to MaxPreps — I know not everyone puts stats on MaxPreps — Stacey is No. 1 in the state and No. 16 in the country in aces per game. Amy is No. 12 in the state," Olshan said. "And they're different serves. Amy's floater is so effective, as is Stacey's topspin."
Ironwood played with its season on the line in game three, but could not go up more than two points. Neither could Arcadia.
Powers and Baton traded kills and tips until Miller tied the game at 22. Two Arcadia serves went long but Miller responded with a kill each time.
An Arcadia error gave the Eagles game point at 25-24. Arcadia scrambled and looked to have faltered, but a desperation bump popped up and straight down over the net as Ironwood players watched in disbelief.
Fittingly, Barton and Miller recorded the final kills of the match. Miller finished the night with 21 kills while Barton added 10.
A deeper Ironwood team spread their attack, involving Hollowell, Gladden and senior outside hitter Corrin Toben, though Powers was the focal point with 14 kills.
But Arcadia's younger player held their end just enough to let their three senior stars convert the biggest points.
"It's really nerve wracking because we only have three players returning from last year that have been in this position," said Barton, who had an asthma attack during game two and recovered to play the third game. "A lot of our players haven't played in a high level match like this. It really proved we can focus when we need to."