Two West Valley girls volleyball programs with completely different perspectives met for the first time in recent memory in a 5A playoff quarterfinal Tuesday night.
Ironwood came in celebrating its first playoff win since 2013. Meanwhile the heart of Millennium's season was just getting started - as the Tigers were 5A champions in 2018 and runners up in 2019.
These inherent differences showed in a short match won by Millennium (15-1) 25-14, 25-17, 25-14. Then the #4 seed received more good news later that night as #9 Phoenix Arcadia (13-5) came back to win the last three sets at #1 Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge.
So the Tigers get one more home game at 6 tonight with a bid to Saturday's 5A title game on the line.
"I wouldn't say we've peaked but we're definitely on an upward trend. Blocking, passing and setting are starting to become strengths. We're starting to put more pieces together," Millennium coach Julie Vastine said. "If you serve and pass well, the odds are going to be in your favor to win."
Meanwhile #12 Ironwood (12-7) would have faced an uphill climb at Millennium even at full strength. The Eagles were without three starters - coach Lisa Lopez said two were out because of district COVID protocols and the other an ankle injury.
McKenzie Omoruyi was one of the missing players, She entered the match as he team's third leading attacker, behind her twin McKenna and senior Kaylee Logan.
"We have had adversity all season. We didn't even know if we were going to have a season. I felt like every step of the way they were really handling adversity really well," Lopez said. "We knew we were going to come in and play a really tough team. They're amazing."
But the sixth-year coach will not drift back to the loss in Goodyear when remembering this season. More than anything, she is impressed by the win that got Ironwood there.
Not only did the Eagles win their first round match on the road, they swept No. 5 seed Cienega 26-24, 25-14, 25-23 in Vail on Nov. 14.
"We were down our three starters. It started the last week of the season. I think that Cactus win allowed them to start gelling," Lopez said. "Winning at Cienega was amazing. The girls were so hyped and so excited. They played for each other. It gave me chills, especially for the seniors."
It started with liberos Christina Lopez and Mallory Rich, who have both been on the varsity since their freshman year in 2017. Logan joined them in 2018.
The Omoruyi twins burst on the scene last year, as did setter Cori Vaquera and Myia Williams.
"They really helped shape the program, to have that winning attitude again - like schools like Cactus, Centennial and Sunrise Mountain," Lopez said. "Having Christina and Mallory grow up together and become the leaders they are and understand the importance of selflessness - I saw both of them grow as leaders. They helped transform the program."