Coconino beach volleyball coach Scott Dendy was waiting to see a higher level of ferocity come from his team as the season unfolded.
The crosstown rivalry match brought it out of the Panthers, who completed the first-ever 5-0 sweep over the Flagstaff Eagles on Tuesday at Coconino High School. On the way to recording their third sweep in the last four matches, the 10th-ranked Panthers dropped just one set at the No. 2 spot.
"Early on, I felt like we struggled with intensity and drive and coming out wanting to win, but now we are starting to turn it on" said Dendy, whose team improved to 7-1 overall, kept the top spot of the Division I, Section II standings at 5-0 and pushed its win streak to seven. "We have three in a row next week, which will be alright, we just have to get in good practices this week."
The final score didn't tell the tale, as the top three pairings battled through tight sets. Shae Dahl and Ashley Monette, Coconino's duo at No. 3, edged Flagstaff's Tara Brain and Maile McSwain, 24-22, in the first set, using a late 3-0 push to take the opener. Dahl put a kill down between the defenders to tie it at 22-all and rattled off a serve that Flagstaff couldn't get back over the net on the way to win.
The Panthers clinched the match when Dahl and Monette took the second set, 21-18, setting up their teammates at No. 2s and 1s to complete the sweep.
No. 24 Flagstaff's overall record dropped to 4-5 as the team lost its third consecutive match. The Eagles fell to 2-3 in the section standings, and their chances at winning the section slipped away.
At No. 2 for Flagstaff, Theresa Palacios and Sofia Quintanilla outlasted Coconino's Lexi Settle and Mireya Cabrera in the first set, 21-19, but had hitting errors slow them down in the next game. An error to the corner from Palacios tied it at 6-6, and from there the Panthers went on an 8-0 surge that started with one of Settle's two aces during the run.
Quintanilla's knuckle tip in the first set put Flagstaff ahead 20-16, with Palacios serving up an ace earlier to make it 18-15 as the Eagles had their own short 3-0 run.
The No. 2s tied up 12 times in the deciding set. Settle's ace made it 20-19 before a Flagstaff hitting error ended it.
"Each practice is a little bit different, trying to work on things that I didn't know," said Beth Haglin, Flagstaff's third coach since the program started in 2015. "So I feel to some degree that I let them down because I don't know enough about it, but on the flip side of it, I feel like we gave them a heck of a fight."
The Parker sisters, Dana and Brooke, won 21-16, 21-15 for the Panthers, who started a regular-season ending stretch of four straight home matches with the win over their rival. Flagstaff's No. 1 pair of Brooklyn Quick and Hutton Hagerman let up late in both sets, allowing the sisters to go on momentum-shifting runs.
Haglin liked what she saw from her recent change in the lineup at No. 1.
"We made that switch (to Quick and Hagerman) a couple of matches ago, put them together, and I feel like they are a good match," Haglin said. "They fight well, they see well, they are not on sand other than during the beach season, they don't play it during the offseason, so I think they do a great job."
With Dana at the service line, the Panthers went ahead 18-14 on a first-set 6-0 run and never looked back, as Brooke helped the duo reach 20 points first on a kill before a Flagstaff hitting error ended it. In the second set, this time with Brooke at the line, Coconino went on a 5-0 run to take an 18-10 advantage and never looked back.
"I think the team played really well; getting the five, four and three matches right away really helped take pressure of the ones and twos, but I feel like we all came out and played our A game today," Dana said. "I think the intensity of those matches set the tone for me and Brooke."
Hutton often got the third touch, a ball Brooke defended throughout the match at the net.
"I think staying lined up with her would help because I would press over and adjust with Dana playing really good defense behind," Brooke said.
Kenzie Palmer and Sophie Sinek surged to a 21-4 win to start action at court five, and bested Flagstaff's Sydney Aldridge and Nicole Sanchez, 21-13, for the straight-set victory. At No. 4, Coconino's Kendall Haylett and Sam Hampton swept Flagstaff's Oniyah Shirley and Katelynn Derryberry, 21-16, 21-13.