Phoenix Xavier made it a habit to come from behind Saturday. Glendale Ironwood made sure the Gators didn’t do it in the day’s biggest match. Xavier was upended by the undefeated Eagles, 25-21, 25-23, in the championship match of the girls Goldwater Invitational Volleyball Tournament at Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix.
Xavier lost its first game in three of its four matches Saturday, only to come back each time to advance to the finals. In the fifth match, the Gators fell just short of forcing a decisive third game against a resilient Ironwood squad, which outlasted seven teams to win its first-ever Goldwater tournament championship.
“We’d never even been in the title match of this tournament. It was a huge win for our program,” said Ironwood coach Kathy Wilson.
“We were playing a little flat earlier, and Xavier’s a great team. It shows we can bounce back.”
Both games were tight and saw numerous ties and lead changes — and Xavier led throughout most of both games. In the first game, the Gators led 21-20 before the Eagles scored the final five points of the match, capped with a kill by junior middle blocker Bethany Sanford.
Trailing 13-10 in the second game, Ironwood took seven of the next nine points, thanks in part to a pair of errant serves by Xavier. A kill by senior outside hitter Sarah Reaves, who holds Ironwood’s single-season record for kills, gave the Eagles a match point. Two points later, a wayward Xavier spike clinched the match for Ironwood.
With the state tournament less than three weeks away, Ironwood is peaking at the right time.
“I’m just so excited for the state tournament now. It shows we can compete with anyone,” Reaves said.
The tournament championship is Ironwood’s second of the season after winning the Westwood Tournament of Champions on Sept. 10.
“We might not get a lot of credit for winning one tournament, because this person didn’t play or that person was injured,” Reaves said.
“But two, that’s got to mean something, you know?”
Also on Saturday, Mesa Mountain View took the third place trophy after beating Gilbert, 25-23, 25-12. Glendale Mountain Ridge needed three games to turn back Tempe Corona Del Sol in the fifth-place match, 25-21, 19-25, 15-9, and Phoenix Desert Vista took seventh place by soundly beating Scottsdale Chaparral, 25-13, 25-10.