SUNSET VOLLEYBALL: Panthers play complete match, take region title

Palo Verde boys volleyball coach Phil Clarke has been waiting for his team to put together a complete match. The Panthers picked the right time to finally do it.

Mitchell Tingey had seven kills and 13 assists, Brigham Clawson had seven kills and Andrew Weston dished out 37 assists as Palo Verde shut down Centennial 25-15, 25-20, 25-17 in the final of the Sunset Region tournament at Green Valley.

It is the first region title since 2009 for the Panthers (19-3), who lost in the championship match last season. Both teams advance to the Division I state tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Chaparral.

“Obviously we had our issues at times, but for the most part everybody did their job and they all came together,” Clarke said. “This was one of their goals. They wanted it, and they came out and they got it done.”

Blake Frischknecht finished with 14 kills, but the Bulldogs (17-3) came out flat following their emotional semifinal victory over Shadow Ridge and never found a rhythm offensively.

“We just weren’t mentally sharp. A lot of the things we normally do well were a struggle for us,” Centennial coach Scott Nelson said. “They put us under a lot of pressure with their serves and they ran their middle attack with a high degree of success.”

Palo Verde scored the final eight points to win the first set. Julian Lupo took over at setter for Centennial in the second set as Nelson tried to find a spark for his squad, and the teams were tied at 18. But Rich Ryerson had two kills, and Mitchell Tingey blocked Frischknecht as the Panthers scored seven of the final nine points.

“Everybody has a job, and everybody was able to fulfill that job tonight,” Tingey said. “It’s just teamwork. We have a really close connection on the court, and we were able to bond together, We’re all confident and know we have each other’s back. That’s the key to our success this year.”

Hunter Stratton had seven kills, and teammate Conner Morris added 14 digs for Centennial, which beat the Panthers 3-1 on March 21.

Palo Verde jumped out to a 14-8 lead in the third set on Weston’s tip and Zac Pacleb’s kill after a quick set from Weston capped a 6-0 run and gave the Panthers match point at 24-12.

“We know they’re a good team and they have big hitters that you’re not going to stop, but we did a good job of containing them,” Clarke said. “We didn’t let them get going and we avoided the big run. If they did go on a little run, we always had a good answer.”

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