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  • Goodyear Independent

    Northwest Christan sweeps its way back to Mesa

    By By Richard Smith,


    To earn a return trip to the 4A boys volleyball final, Northwest Christian did not let up, even for a set.

    During Thursday night's semifinal, the home team's letdowns were brief as the top seed breezed to a 25-12, 25-12, 25-16 win against #12 Estrella Foothills.

    All but two rotation players who came off the bench last year were back from the 4A runner ups. The Crusaders are going back to Skyline High in Mesa having not lost a set in any of their regular season or playoff matches.

    "We didn't overlook any single game this year. It was never set up on state. That's our goal, for sure. Every single match mattered. We did not overlook anything. That's the experience of seniors who have been there and not necessarily gotten the full ticket," Northwest Christian coach Chuck Hunter said

    Northwest Christian plays #2 Chandler Arizona Prep (33-5) at noon Saturday at Skyline.

    The Knights look like the only 4A team capable of challenging the Crusaders, as the teams split two tournament matches earlier this season. But even ACP can't match Northwest Christian's consistency entering the final.

    "For us it starts in practice. We set the tone and show up ready to work. We re-create game situations, and we've got a whole team who's like ballers. We have competitive practices and we're able to push each other," senior outside hitter Jack Hubbard said.

    Estrella Foothills also left Phoenix Thursday night with a measure of satisfaction. Despite a tougher regular season, including a 5-5 record in West Valley Region play.

    Five of the six West Valley teams made the final 16 of the 4A bracket and the sixth, Peoria High, was in the play-in.

    "The worked as a team and rallied behind each other," Estrella Foothills coach Michael Matteson said. "In the regular season, we really are in the toughest region in 4A. That really helped us to prepare for the playoffs, giving us a strong will."

    The Wolves lost four key seniors to graduation from the #3 seed in 2023, yet got back to the semifinals by upsetting Tucson Salpointe Catholic and Scottsdale Christian in their home gyms.

    Matteson's team did this with a small senior class. Libero Jace Carroll was the primary leader, the coach said, and senior middle blockers Kody Bohne and Michael Winovich were crucial parts of the attack.

    "I'm extremely proud of them. They fought really hard and made it far in these playoffs," Michael Matteson said. "We rallied against those teams that are supposedly ranked higher than us. We're only four years playing competitively so I'm very proud of what this team has set for a legacy for the future."

    Hubbard led all players with 17 kills while junior Devon Helmer added 14.

    Both benefited from Northwest Christian's new guy, freshman setter. Gavin Helmer. He distributed 39 assists Thursday.

    "This freshman was ready. He was there and outting balls as wel," Hubbard sai. "I get nrevous but he's so cart, and he's so calm and learned how to lead the freshmen so well," Hubbard said.

    Estrella Foothills will have help from  a 4S

    "Our bench, guys who are not on the court, their level of play has elevated greatly, which elevates our starters," Hunter said. "I know they don't necessarily get seem like that, put they push us."

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