Coronado boys volleyball coach Brock Mitchell told his players in their first team meeting that this season would be a failure if the Cougars didn’t reach the state final.
That was just fine by senior outside hitter Chris Austin.
“I feel the same way,” Austin said. “I play with the best outside hitter in the city (Eric Boman), the best team in the city. I love my team to death.”
Now that the Cougars have reached the state title match, they’re hoping for a grand finale today.
Coronado opened the state tournament with a 25-14, 25-14, 23-25, 25-21 semifinal win over Centennial on Tuesday at Sierra Vista.
The Sunrise Region champion Cougars (22-1) will meet Sunset winner Palo Verde (19-5) in the state final at 6 p.m. today at Sierra Vista.
“It feels good,” Mitchell said. “But having said that, I’m not going to be just satisfied with making it to the finals.”
Austin had 27 assists, 10 kills, five digs and two blocks for Coronado. Boman contributed 26 kills, nine digs, two blocks and two aces.
Dayne Ernestberg added nine kills, five blocks and four digs for the Cougars. Hunter Chaney tallied 21 assists.
Coronado didn’t trail until the third game, which featured 17 ties and seven lead changes. The Cougars held a 23-21 lead, but Blake Davidson’s kill capped a 4-0 run that the Bulldogs used to avoid a sweep.
Centennial (17-7) jumped to an 8-5 lead in the fourth game, but Coronado went on a 12-5 run and led the rest of the way.
“The third game and a lot of the fourth game, I thought we fought pretty well,” Bulldogs coach Scott Nelson said. “We dug a pretty big hole to start with. Coronado’s too good a team to get to that sort of disadvantage.”
Drew Staker had 11 kills to lead Centennial, which fell short of its third straight berth in a state final.
Jeff Mecham added 28 assists for the Bulldogs. Kyle Moody had 12 digs, and Davidson and Tyler McAninch had six kills each.
The Cougars will try to win their first state title today. They won 3-0 at Palo Verde on March 17.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” Austin said. “Winning the region tournament last year was the best feeling I’ve ever felt until now.”
Palo Verde 3, Las Vegas 0 — The Panthers cruised to a 25-21, 25-14, 25-19 sweep of the Wildcats in the other state semifinal.
Offensive balance has been a strength for Palo Verde all season, but it was never more evident than Tuesday.
Five players had at least five kills for Palo Verde, which will play today for its first state title since 2006.
“It’s a good trait,” Panthers senior outside hitter Tyler Capko said of the balance. “When we’re passing good, Matt (Lish) has the opportunity to spread the ball around to everyone and use all our weapons.”
Lish, a senior setter, had 31 assists.
“When we pass well, then teams don’t know where the ball’s going to go,” Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke said. “It helps us out a ton. Obviously Capko’s still our go-to guy, but they can’t just load up and have two on him.”
Capko and Shaun Carroll (five digs) had nine kills each for the Panthers. Andrew Topham (five digs) and Jalyn Martin tallied six kills each, and Nick Hipwell added five.
With Capko sidelined earlier this season with an ankle injury, the Panthers wound up third in the Northwest League. But they enter the state final on a six-match winning streak.
“It means a lot,” Clarke said. “These guys had to go through some injuries and different lineups.
“When (Capko) is clicking, it just adds another dimension to our team.”
Danny Farias had 27 assists to lead Las Vegas (18-6), which fell short in trying to win a second straight state title. Braeden Wilson contributed 11 digs and nine kills.
Clarke said the Panthers need to “play our game” against Coronado.
“It’ll be a fun one,” he said. “They have a couple big hitters in Austin and Boman. We’ll see if we’ve got one more left in us.”