Gilbert’s quest for its first state volleyball championship since 1997 came to an end Saturday against Powdersville in the Class 3A state finals. The defending champion state champions defeated the Indians 3-0, by the scores of 25-14, 25-15 and 25-22 in front of a full, vocal gym at River Bluff.
Gilbert (27-7) has been to the state finals four times since winning the title, the last time coming in 2012. But they got off to a slow start in each of the three sets and couldn’t overcome the taller, more experienced Patriots.
It wasn’t the desired result, but Gilbert coach Jackie Shealy feels like getting to this point again was important for the program.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls,” Shealy said. “They have played very well throughout the season. We’ve seen how we need to speed up our offense and make adjustments on defense. I think we have a lot to build on. The experience of being here at state and the atmosphere provides a great foundation to the future.”
Powdersville (20-3-1) was making its third straight championship game appearance, finally winning the title last year and breaking the 17-year title streak by Bishop England. This year, they didn’t want to give it away.
The players had a number 2 written on one hand, signifying they were going for their second straight title. On the other hand, there was a 1 with a large X across it, meaning they didn’t want Gilbert to start a streak at their expense.
“It was mental and superstition for them,” Powdersville coach Brooke Passini said.
The first two sets never were close until Gilbert put up a close fight in the final set. That is the direct opposite of what Shealy wanted to have happen.
“We hoped to jump out on them,” she said. “We’ve been a very fast playing team and jumping on our opponents early. Our serving and passing wasn’t the best so it took our offense out of the game. They had really good servers and that showed.”
The Patriots relied on the experience of Class 3A Player of the Year Alexis Albright and 6-foot-3 middle hitter Lauren Fowler. Those quick starts to the first two sets were instrumental. Then once they got into a tight third set, Powdersville relied on its experience on the big stage.
“Our fast start was important. I told them we have to run our quick offense and have to take care of the ball. We wanted to challenge Gilbert with that and I felt like they did a great job,” Passini said.
“It means so much and we put in the hard work. There was a lot of people that thought after we lost five seniors, we couldn’t do it again so I’m just super proud of them.”