Ridge spikers win regional title - The Explorer: Sports

Ridge spikers win regional title

Nighthawks open state with Kingman

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Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 8:04 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Before Ironwood Ridge took on the Rincon Rangers in Thursday’s 5A-II Southern region volleyball championship, the Nighthawks warmed up behind imposing gym doors sealed with bright yellow police-style caution tape.

Once the match started, the #12 Rangers stepped into an off-limits area: the one between #2 Ironwood Ridge and the regional championship.

The homestanding Nighthawks dispatched Rincon in four games, 25-22, 25-22, 24-26 and 25-12. Ironwood Ridge plays Kingman in first-round state action Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the ‘Hawks home floor.

In Thursday’s opener, tough defensive play by Ranger middle blockers had the Nighthawks, 16-1, trailing Rincon 8-3.

Then Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang’s systematic training took hold, and the Nighthawks went on a tear, outscoring the Rangers 10-5 and evening the score behind strong service from senior setter Malyree Harper and big kills from sophomore middle blocker Morgan Eaton and outside hitter Michaela Christiaansen. The Nighthawks won, 25-22.

The second game was more of the same, as Rincon took an early lead and held it for nearly the entire game, in spite of inspired defensive play from senior Nighthawk libero Michelle Link and junior middle blocker Briana Hughes.

Ironwood Ridge made its move trailing 22-21, as Harper, also named region Player of the Year earlier in the evening, again took serving duties and led her team to another 25-22 victory, the final point coming on an ace serve that ricocheted off the hand of Rincon libero Karina Lopez and landing out of bounds.

In the third game, played to a tight 26-24 Rincon victory, the Rangers appeared to be unstoppable on defense, as middle blocker Amanda Mickle frustrated spike attempts from senior Nighthawk outside hitter Kirsten Linaker, and Rincon’s outside hitter Jessica Reilly was able to sneak kills past the Ironwood Ridge defenders.

If the Rangers had hopes of a comeback, however, the next game erased any such optimism.

Michaela Christaansen caught fire on both offense and defense, and the Nighthawks  led the entire time, prevailing 25-12, and winning their second straight region crown.

“We noticed in the previous three sets we’d been losing some points in different matchups, so we made one slight adjustment, and it turned out to be a different score,” Lang said. “Rincon is a well-coached team, but they played two matches this week while we were practicing for them.”

If Ironwood Ridge beats #15 Kingman, the Nighthawks host a second state playoff match, and they’ve never lost a playoff match on their court.

Last year, Ironwood Ridge advanced to the tourney semifinals before losing to Glendale Ironwood. Lang is confident a game plan unchanged from that of the regular season will help the Nighthawks avoid elimination.

“We talked to the girls at length about this; the biggest mistake we can make is to try to do something different for the playoffs,” said Lang. “You can’t jump higher, you can’t dig the ball better, you can’t set faster -- I just want them to do what they’ve done.”

Captain and player of the year Harper hopes to do one thing the Nighthawks haven’t done this year: beat Glendale Centennial, the only team to beat Ironwood Ridge this season.

“We want to go all the way to finals, and we hope to see Centennial there,” said Harper with a slight smile. “(It would be) just a little bit of revenge.”

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 30

Boys Golf (3 p.m.)

Mountain View at Haven Golf Course

Ironwood Ridge, Buena, Catalina at Rincon (Dell Urich)

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at CDO

Maricopa at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Vista Grande

Poston Butte at Catalina Foothills

San Miguel at Pusch Ridge

Freshman Football (6 p.m.)

Maricopa at Marana

Wednesday, October 1

Girls Golf (3 p.m.)

Mountain View vs. Ironwood Ridge (Omnu Tucson National)

CDO, Sunnyside at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Sabino at Catalina Foothills

Cross Country (4:30 p.m.)

Ironwood Ridge, Sahuarita at Flowing Wells (Columbus Park)

Marana, St. Gregory at Catalina Foothills

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

CDO at Ironwood Ridge

Freshman Football (6 p.m.)

Mountain View at Salpointe

Catalina Foothills at CDO

JV Football (6.p.m.)

Marana at Maricopa

Salpointe at Mountain View

CDO at Catalina Foothills

Thursday, October 2

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Mountain View, St. Gregory’s, Pusch Ridge at Marana

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Poston Butte

Catalina Foothills at Flowing Wells

Pusch Ridge at Willcox

Varsity Football (7p.m.)

Maricopa at Marana

Mountain View at Salpointe

Catalina Foothills @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Rincon

Friday, October 3

Boys Golf (all day)

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Santa Rita/Flowing Wells Invitational

Girls Vollyeball (all day)

CDO, Catalina Foothills at Falcon Invitational

Cross Country

Catalina Foothills, CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Desert Twilight Festival

Varsity Footbal (7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at San Tan Valley

Saturday, October 4

Boys Golf (all day)

CDO at Santa Rita/Flowing Wells Invitational

Swimming (all day)

Catalina Foothills, CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Brophy/Xavier Swim Invitational

Girls Volleyball (4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Desert Christian

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