Nov. 10, 2004 - When the Chaparral High School girls volleyball team entered the gym to attend a University of Arizona camp in July, Ironwood Ridge head coach Bill Lang singled out the Scottsdale squad and told his own players to take heed.
"That's the team we are playing in the state tournament championships," Lang told his Nighthawks at the time.
Four months later, true to his premonition, Lang's fledgling Ironwood Ridge program found itself squaring off against the Falcons in the Class 4A championship game Nov. 6.
Despite a remarkable run through the 4A state bracket, Ironwood Ridge's bid for the first state title in any sport in the school's four year history fell short to a Chaparral program hunting for its first ever state championship.
The Nighthawks should have seen a calamity coming after a technical snafu forced an improvised National Anthem to be sung by the raucous crowd in attendance at Hamilton High School in Chandler.
Lang's squad fell behind early and was never able to regain the dominating style of play that advanced it to a finals showdown with Chaparral, a team it had scouted since the season began. The Falcons swept the best of three game matches winning 25-19, 25-15. The loss brought Ironwood Ridge's 10-game win streak to a halt.
"Chaparral happened out there," responded Lang when asked about his team's inability to overcome the Falcons. Ironwood was never able to get Chaparral "out of it system" forcing the Nighthawks to have to alter their own style of play, said Lang. A big part of Ironwood Ridge's ineffectiveness stemmed from its struggle to get its middle blockers involved in the team's scoring.
Ironwood Ridge finishes the year with a 31-12 record, good for second place in Class 4A. The loss to Chaparral was the final game for four of the squad's 15 players. Leaving the program will be seniors Michelle McLain, Lauren Oglesby, Stephanie Slaton and Daisha Petty. The quartet is the remaining members from the original Ironwood Ridge team from four years ago.
"We beat ourselves," said an emotional McLain of the team's effort against the Falcons, "It just wasn't our day."
The biggest loss for Lang's squad will be replacing McLain, the Sonoran Region Player-of-the-Year. However, the coach is confident in the squad that will return to the court next season. For those staying behind, the quest to return to the championship game and beyond will begin right away.
"Nov. 7 we'll start thinking about next season," said the coach.
The Nighthawks should be led by six returning seniors in 2005 including middle blocker Kara Bauman and outside hitter Kelly Brady. Bauman posted seven kills and a block against Chaparral.
Barely 10 minutes removed from the 2004 title game, the six-foot-one-inch Bauman already had her sights set on making a return trip to the finals.
"Oh yeah, we'll be back," said Bauman.