Coyotes survive final volleyball epic with Sunrise Mountain

5-set quarterfinal win earns Centennial rematch with Millennium


The fifth match this season between rival Peoria schools would settle things.

And there was little doubt that it would take five sets.

With the crowd on pins and needles, the fourth-ranked Centennial Coyotes (26-10) just slipped past the fifth-ranked Sunrise Mountain Mustangs in the 5A quarterfinals.

After dropping sets one and four, Centennial took the second and third frames and the tiebreaker for a 12-25, 25-20, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11 win.

Sunrise Mountain claimed the first three showdowns, one a regular season match at Centennial and two district tournament battles.

So the Coyotes' four-set victory at Sunrise Mountain Oct.22 was crucial for their belief — even more than seeding, Centennial coach Cari Bauer said.

“When both teams have won, it gives you confidence,” Bauer said. “Nyjha (Marcellin) is playing out of position – she’s normally a right side – but she’s had a breakout season.”

Centennial advances to play at #1 seed and defending 5A champ Millennium at 6 p.m. Nov. 9.

Earlier in the season, Centennial lost 3-1 Sept. 5 at Millennium and was defeated 2-0 in the Goldwater Invitational.

In Thursday's tiebreaker, Centennial jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on a spike from senior middle blocker Nyjha Marcellin. The Mustangs took the lead on a kill and block from senior middle blocker Hannah Richman and junior Morghan Jagodzinski.

The match went back-and-forth with the final set being tied five times. Leading 10-9, Centennial found itd findhing kick with a 5-1 run with kills from senior outside hitter Ashley Lifgren and senior outside hitter Trinity Weidinger.

“Ashely’s our go to, the core of our defense,” Bauer said. “Sunrise Mountain came out and executed every facet of the game. It’s a game of momentum.”

These two schools tied with #6 seed Phoenix Sunnyslope for the 5A Northwest Region title after all three teams split their two matches against each other. Sunrise Mountain initiated the split, winning the final regular season match at Sunnyslope 25-23, 26-24, 25-23.

Marcellin was all over the court, despite the fact she suffered an injury not long ago.

“I broke my ankle last week and you move on and think what you have to do to get to the next goal.”she said.

Lifgren — the Coyotes other four-year starter — also is playing through pain, after nearly breaking her ankle at the district tournament three weeks ago.

She said the first-game loss to Sunrise strengthened her team.

The match started with Sunrise in control from the start as it built leads of 14-7, 20-8, before settling on the 13-poin win.

“You just get it out of your system,” Lifgren said. “I think every single person contributed to get us the win.”

Sunrise Mountain advanced past the first round with a 25-11, 25-21, 25-11 victory over Vail Cienega.

Sunrise Mountain coach Brandi Jans said the loss was hard to swallow, but the effort by her team was good.

“It was a tough loss and we worked really hard all season,” Jans said. “I just tried to tell them to stay calm (when Centennial led 2-1 in games).”

Despite the outcome, Jans was happy with blocking from junior middle hitter Adna Mehmedovic and kills from junior libero Haven Wray.

In the fourth game, Sunrise built an 18-11 lead before Centennial whittled it down to 23-22 as lengthy rallies kept it interesting. Sunrise pulled away with a block and Centennial’s out-of-bounds return to win.

In the third game Centennial overcame blocks and kills from Mehmedovic to erase a 7-4 deficit and pull away for good at 12-11, outscoring the Mustangs 13-6 in the rest of the set.

Centennial second-set win was a closely-contested match, with the “biggest” lead being the final score.

Again, both sides used long rallies and kills from senior right side hitter Kimber Roberts and a kill from junior right side Macy Lafollette to keep it at 23-20 Centennial.