One team stays at home and the other hits the road for the start of the Conference 4A state championship volleyball tournament.

The fifth-seeded Flagstaff Eagles host the No. 12 Shadow Mountain Matadors, while the ninth-seeded Coconino Panthers travel to Nogales to take on the No. 8 Apaches. Both first-round matches are set for a 6:30 p.m. start on Halloween.

If the teams get through Tuesday's first-round matches, the Eagles would remain home to face either 13th-seeded Higley or No. 4 Sunrise Mountain, and Coconino would travel either to No. 1 Cactus Shadows or No. 16 Palo Verde Magnet.

With both teams on the same side of the bracket, Flagstaff and Coconino could meet in the semifinals, which would take place at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix.

But first, the Eagles and Panthers have to take down teams they are not familiar with. Looking ahead, neither team beat a team ranked higher than them during the regular season.

Here's a look at how Flagstaff and Coconino reached the playoffs and what they are up against in the first round.


Finishing the regular season with a 14-3 overall record and a Grand Canyon Region title courtesy of a perfect 12-0 mark, the Eagles, who also went 30-8 when including tournament matches, soar into the playoffs with momentum -- they won nine of their final 10 regular-season matches.

The Eagles bring to the table one of the best defenses in Arizona. Tara Brain and Theresa Palacios sit atop the state leaderboard in rejections with 159 and 140, respectively. Meanwhile, the backcourt is guarded by libero Hutton Hagerman, who has the sixth-most digs in the state at 562.

That defense has allowed the offense to flow; Eagles senior outside hitter Lydia Miller recorded 359 kills and Brain contributed 225. Flagstaff's serve-receive game will be tested Tuesday by a Matadors squad that enters the match with 193 service aces tallied to Flagstaff's 188. In fact, at the service line is the only area of the game Shadow Mountain has an advantage over Flagstaff.

Brain's offense has been effective in the past weeks leading up to the state tournament -- the junior has averaged 7.8 kills in her last five matches. Miller's arm has also been heating up, as the hitter went into double-digits in kills in the past four straight matches, her longest streak of the season.

Both Brain and Miller are familiar with the postseason; however, many of Flagstaff's players, including Palacios and Hagerman, will be playing in their first-ever state tournament.

Shadow Mountain, which finished with a regular-season record of 11-6, notched just 84 blocks through the season. Flagstaff on the other hand, put up 449. In regular-season matches, the Matadors defeated Mingus Union and Prescott High in sweeping fashion, much like the Eagles did. Both Flagstaff and Shadow Mountain were unable to take down Cactus Shadows, the No. 1 seed in the 4A, and Seton Catholic, the sixth seed, but Flagstaff took Cactus Shadows to five sets while Shadow Mountain managed to win just one set in the teams' two meetings.


Led by one of the state's most effective hitters in Dana Parker, the Panthers are looking to make the most of their long trip to Nogales, a team they didn't meet during the season.

Feeding Dana assists has been her younger sister, Brooke Parker, who as a freshman enters her first state tourney with the fourth-most assists in the state at 914.

While the Panthers enter the game with a strong attack, they face a Nogales team that has put up 258 blocks during the course of the season to Coconino's 161. The Apaches get most of their rejections from senior middle blocker Lucero Mada, who leads the team with 86.

"I think we have had one of the more successful teams Coconino's seen just because the girls did buy into what I was saying," Panthers first-year head coach Bree Davis said.

In her first year, she led the team to a 13-4 overall regular-season record and a 10-2 region record that saw them come up short of the title to Flagstaff.

From the frontrow to back, key components of the rotations have been averaging their best numbers.

"You want to talk about peaking? My girls are peaking at the right time now," Davis said.

The Panthers' service attack has played a role in keeping teams off-balance. While Coconino registered 271 service aces throughout the season, Nogales managed just 139. Five players have 20 or more aces for the Panthers.

Age and experience are on Coconino's side as the team looks to get out of the first round for the first time since 2014. Several of the seven seniors have seen postseason matches in their career, including offensive contributors such as Lauren Touchstone and Shae Dahl. But many of the younger players in the rotations will get their first taste of postseason volleyball.

"This season, I think we all feel more confident. We've seen the way we can play really well, and we all know that if we get to that point that we are going to be hard to beat," Dana Parker said.

Nogales finished its regular season with an overall record of 15-2, and didn't share any common opponents with Coconino during the year.

"I feel like it will be a good matchup, just because it's not that our girls couldn't handle a one seed, but I am excited about a fun match in the first round," Davis said.

One of the challenges for Davis has been making sure her team gets healthy while still getting in productive practices.

"That's one thing we are working on is making sure our girls get the right amount of rest and treatment before the girls head in, but I think if all our players show up and perform like they need to, we're going to have a great match," Davis said.

Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at


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