Second-seeded Hamilton took care of No. 7 Peoria Centennial in three sets, 25-14, 25-15, 25-22, to advance to the semifinals of the Division I volleyball state tournament on Thursday night.
The first two sets were dominated by Hamilton (36-5), which flew out to a 17-4 lead in the first set and a 9-3 in the second.
The Huskies will face No. 3 Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor in the state semifinals on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Mesquite High School.
“I was so pleased that in those first two games we were passing clean and everybody was transitioning,” Huskies coach Sharon Vanis said.
Both teams took turns making errors and having trouble getting into their offensive sets, but the Huskies' talent persevered.
“At one point we had missed eight serves,” Vanis said of her team’s inconsistency. “But we also got a few aces. I thought Olivia Hallaran was serving very aggressive.”
Hallaran had a complete match, contributing eight kills and 17 digs in addition to her strong serving. Fellow captain Shelby Babcock led all players with 30 digs.
Centennial (21-6) was overmatched in the first two sets, but played competitively in the third set, which featured a tie score six different times.
“(Hamilton) serves very well and that got us out our rhythm (initially),” Centennial Coach Carly Bourland said after the match. “We were able to pass our serve a little bit better (in the third set).”
Bourland’s squad was kept afloat by strong defense, especially from sophomore Olivia Thomas who had 29 digs and Hannah Combs who lead all players with five blocks. Senior Madeline Mertz led the Coyotes with seven kills.
Vanis praised Centennial's toughness in making a run in the third game, and the Coyotes' message remained positive after the loss for the Coyotes.
“I’m proud of them,” Bourland said of her team. “They definitely got beat by a team that was better than them. Not to discount anything on our side of the net, but we just didn’t have our game going and they’re a very polished team.”
Hamilton now faces No. 3-seed Sandra Day O’Connor in the semifinals, a team the Huskies are not familiar with. Regardless, Vanis' team has aspirations beyond the third round.
“We want to play on Tuesday,” she said. “I think we’ve surprised a lot of people and my team has surprised me. We’ve gotten this far, let’s finish it.”