It was a word from Gilbert boys volleyball coach (and Spanish teacher) Jeff Grover on championship Saturday in boys volleyball.
The perennial power is in the state playoffs every year, but other than a 2009 loss to Mountain Pointe in the title match, had come up short. In the last seven seasons. The Tigers lost twice in the first round, twice in the quarters and twice in the semifinals, including last season. So in the 18 years since the sport was sanctioned, no state titles.
Behind the powerful duo of Cody Martin and Tyler Hutchins, a superior block anchored by Spencer Wright, and some key plays in an otherwise see-saw match, fifth-seeded Gilbert got by No. 6 Brophy 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20 in the state boys volleyball championship on Saturday night at Gilbert High School.
“It is indescribable, how good it feels,” Hutchins said. “We have kind of referred to it as a Cinderella story because everything was lined up in our favor. All we had to do was perform. And I have never seen a team give us such a challenge, but I’ve never seen our team battle that challenge as well as it did.”
The site for the state championship is set long before the season but the Tigers knew they just had to get to the final match to take advantage of the partisan crowd. But that didn’t stop the Broncos, who stayed close all night.
“We just had some mental lapses at critical times and that got the better of us,” Brophy coach Tony Oldani said. “All the credit goes to Gilbert. They were fantastic. I couldn’t be happier for Gilbert to finally get this. They were the best team all year. They finished it off well.”
“It’s a relief, a weight off my shoulders to be honest,” Grover said. “So I’m proud of this class, this class deserves it. They worked well together. They were a true team.”
Brophy’s best, Nick Benson and Ryan Dowd, were on and the title match also capped the emergence of Benson’s freshman left-hander Ryne Benson. But a couple of points went the wrong way for Brophy, which only trailed 22-20 after Nick Benson’s kill from the back row.
But Travis Cole put one down for Gilbert to put Martin at serve. Martin found Nick Rockwell for a kill that was ruled tipped by Brophy and then on a rally, Brophy got the ball to the 6-foot-4 Dowd, but Wright was there to end the match and send the predominantly-Tigers crowd into ecstasy.
“Brophy did a very good job,” Martin said. “I mean, when they won game two, to be honest I was little nervous. But then we pulled away."
It figured to be close when each team took a set by the same 25-22 score. First, Gilbert, then Brophy. Then, Martin had nine kills alone in the third set, again close with Brophy down just 22-20 before Gilbert closed it out. Game four was the same – neither team led by more than two until the final points. When Gilbert scored a couple of points in a row, Brophy got the ball to Nick Benson or Dowd. Brophy ran off four points in one stretch until Martin put one down to stop the momentum.
Ryne Benson even contributed an assist when he set up Scott Mueller to get Brophy within 21-19 in the final set, but Mueller served long to give the ball back to Gilbert. Benson’s kill that Wright couldn’t handle was the last point of the season.
“It came down at the end to just a few passes, a few net calls,” Nick Benson said. “Gilbert’s a great team and we knew we had to keep a high level of volleyball all night. We slipped up in some areas and they took it. They took it from us.”