Before Coronado’s boys volleyball team lost its first match in the Sunrise Region finals, coach Matt Johnson would’ve compared his team to the New England Patriots of Super Bowl XLII.
Now, he likes to think of it as the Patriots’ opponent, the New York Giants.
“We’ve embraced the underdog role,” Johnson said. “We haven’t been there all season, but we’ve really embraced it (now).”
The Cougars fought off a stingy Centennial team in the first game before rolling to a 25-23, 25-14, 25-16 win over the Bulldogs in a Class 4A boys volleyball state semifinal at Palo Verde.
Bryan Arana had nine kills and two blocks for Coronado (20-1), and Hunter Chaney dished out 29 assists for the Cougars, who used a balanced effort acquired from their lone loss to put away Sunset champion Centennial (17-4).
“I think Friday night’s match (against Las Vegas) brought us together,” said Arana, who notched game-winning kills in the first two games. “It made us play more as a team instead of individuals. We came in (before Friday) undefeated, we came in hot-headed, and we thought everyone would roll over and die, but now we know we’ve got to work for it.”
Coronado scored six of the final eight points in the first game to edge Centennial and then took control in the second, as it jumped to a 9-2 lead on the back of junior outside hitter Jahren Makanoa, who finished with seven kills, three blocks and an ace.
Makanoa helped the Cougars start the third game on a 6-2 run, and Coronado never looked back.
Bryan Glenn added five kills and five blocks for the Cougars, and Chris Andrulis tallied eight kills.
Leo Durkin dished out 22 assists for the Bulldogs. Matt Kurtz had seven kills, and Mike Robinson and Tyler Rogers added six kills apiece for Centennial.
Shadow Ridge 3, Las Vegas 0 — Shadow Ridge hasn’t had much experience with losing.
But after being swept by Centennial in the Sunset Region finals, the Mustangs are eager to repair their image.
Shadow Ridge powered into the state championship match with a 25-20, 28-26, 25-23 win over Las Vegas that helped erase the bad taste in the Mustangs’ mouth.
“We were a little bit embarrassed on Friday by our performance, so we just stepped it up in practice and today came out with a lot of energy,” said senior Taylor Lancaster, who led Shadow Ridge with 14 kills and two blocks.
The Mustangs (19-2) streaked to an early lead on a 6-1 run, but the Wildcats (18-3) fought back with a 7-1 streak to tie the game at 14-14. A kill by Zach Hafen, a block and a kill by Lancaster and a block by senior Joe Pearson gave the Mustangs 21-17 lead, and they held on for the win.
“We couldn’t let mistakes get to us,” said outside hitter Jake Shea, who tallied 12 kills and two blocks for Shadow Ridge. “We had to move on to the next point and just fight from there. Everyone played well, and that’s what got us the win.”
Jeremy Makaiwi dished out 25 assists for the Mustangs, and Pearson and Thomas Rowan combined for five blocks in a match that swayed both ways with streaks of momentum.
“For the seniors, it was either end our careers or go out fighting,” Shea said. “And we’re going out fighting. Everybody wants it, especially the seniors, because they know this is their last chance to get (a championship).”