DIVISION I VOLLEYBALL: Falcons top Palo Verde to earn another shot at Coronado

Kendell Andrews doesn’t look back at his team’s loss to Coronado in last week’s Sunrise Region boys volleyball title match as a negative.

The Foothill senior sees it as just another opportunity. 

“That loss really helped us,” the outside hitter said. “It gave us our one mulligan in this tournament.”

In the Division I boys state volleyball semifinals Tuesday, Andrews and the Falcons made every moment count.

Andrews had 17 kills and four aces, and Taeg Williams distributed 36 assists to guide the Falcons to a 25-23, 25-15, 25-20 sweep of Palo Verde at Chaparral.

The Falcons (31-11) will aim for the program’s first state championship when they face Coronado (25-4) in the title match at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chaparral.

“The nice thing about last week is that it took us a while to find a groove,” Foothill coach Chris Sisson. “It took us an entire set. But then we were able to hang with them.”

The Falcons, playing without star Chansten Chow who is out for the season with a concussion, cruised to a 13-9 lead in the first set with a lively 8-2 run. The Panthers closed the gap to 23-22, but the Falcons’ solid front row held Palo Verde’s rally at bay. 

“You can kind of tell that Palo Verde came out with a little bit of nerves at first,” Sisson said. “With us, I wasn’t sure how we would be with a different lineup, because we obviously lost one of our better players.”

But Foohill’s front row stepped up.

Andrews and Caleb Hutchinson, who had eight kills and four blocks, took advantage of their height and athleticism to overpower the Panthers. Andrews had six kills in the second set, and the Falcons pulled away with the help of a 7-3 spurt. Cory Fisher’s blistering kill down center court capped the victory. The sophomore contributed 10 kills and two blocks.

Foothill breezed to a third set victory with excellent serving and five kills from Andrews.

“It means so much to make the title game, especially after all the work we’ve put in this year,” Andrews said. “For the past three years, this has been our absolute goal to get here. But not just to get here, to win it.”

E.J. Vanderstelt had five kills, and teammate Rich Ryerson added four kills and three blocks for Palo Verde, which finished 19-4.

In the other semifinal, Matt Pettit contributed 11 kills, and Tyler Cucullu had nine kills as Coronado held off Centennial, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22.

The Cougars, last season’s state champions, trailed 21-20 in the first set, but closed with five straight points to grab the win.

Coronado overcame a five-point deficit in the second set by using a 10-2 run, highlighted by two key blocks from Connor Stephenson, to take control. Stephenson finished with 30 assists.

Chet Durkin paced the Bulldogs (17-4) with 20 assists, and teammate Blake Frischknecht added 10 kills. 

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