Flagstaff Eagles head coach Beth Haglin liked the way her team was playing out of the gates, but wasn't completely satisfied with the effort and intensity.
Flagstaff found that next gear, and after falling in the first set, came from behind on the way to winning the Grand Canyon Region title and city championship, topping the Coconino Panthers 3-1 in a winner-take-all match on Wednesday.
The path to the top spot was nearly perfect, as Flagstaff, the No. 5-ranked team in the 4A Conference heading into the night, finished its region schedule with a 12-0 record. Overall, the Eagles, who never had to go to five sets against any region opponents, ended the regular season at a 14-3 mark.
"I think (Brooklyn Quick) helped me stay together and composed, and also helped the team stay together," said Eagles senior outside hitter Lydia Miller, who led all players in kills with 22.
Miller's 16 digs gave her the Senior Night double-double. Quick, the Eagles' setter, also notched a double-double, putting up 40 assists to go with 19 digs.
"One of the big things Coach Haglin always says is, 'You never know until you go' -- not giving up on a ball, nothing drops without going for it," Quick said. "In the first set, we were frazzled a little, but in the second we knew what was coming and watched where we needed to."
The ninth-ranked Panthers, one of only two region teams to push the Eagles to a fourth set this season, came firing out of the gates and took the first set, 25-20, courtesy of a late 5-0 run that occurred with Mireya Cabrera at the service line.
"I think we gave a lot in the first set, came out really excited and then took a deep breath and never got back the energy again," said Panthers head coach Bree Davis. "But I think in that last set, we didn't roll over, we fought back."
Panthers outside hitter Dana Parker did most of the work in the opener on the way to tallying a double-double with 14 kills and 21 digs. Lauren Touchstone and Sophie Sinek helped to take the 1-0 match lead, as Touchstone got her team possession with a hit off the block and Sinek found a nice spot at the backcourt for a kill before teaming up with Touchstone for a rejection during the surge.
"Sinek played well on the block tonight, and we had good numbers on digs because we had a block that was channeling the ball," Davis said.
Touchstone nearly had a double-double with nine kills and eight digs.
With the second set tied at 17, a string of hitting errors stalled Coconino's momentum and the team never fully recovered, as Flagstaff went on to win the remaining sets 25-17, 25-15, 25-20.
Coconino had a slight lead throughout much of the second set before the swings started misfiring. As Miller shot off strong serves and Flagstaff's block and defense made adjustments, Coconino committed five consecutive hitting errors, including three straight from Parker, during a 9-0 Eagles run that pushed them to the set win.
"When we play teams that have really good outside hitters, you serve to them, you make them work hard the entire match, so their transition game has to be on point, everything has to be on point, or they are not in position to hit or pass the ball," Haglin said.
Davis was the first former Eagles player to take on Haglin in a varsity season. She also helped guide her team to a postseason spot in her first year, a 13-4 overall regular-season record and a 10-2 mark in the region.
Reece Honanie, who played a big role in ending the second set in strong fashion, collected six kills for the Eagles, who never allowed the Panthers a lead in the final two sets.
"They just work so hard for us, and they will do anything. I think their goal is to improve every match, get better, and we get great leadership through Lydia and Brooklyn," Haglin said of her team. "... This team really plays hard for each other."
Madeline Wilson added seven kills to go with four blocks and five digs. Locking down the backrow, Hutton Hagerman ended her night with 34 digs, while Jasmine Berry added eight digs and Theresa Palacios also had four blocks. Tara Brain had nine kills, helping Flagstaff spread out the attack.
Taylor White, Miller and Palacios all said their goodbyes as they were honored on Senior Night.
Coconino setter Brooke Parker moved the ball well, but she was strong all around the rotation with 11 digs and five kills, many of which came on tips.
"I think we are still picking up steam, and we want to keep that going for states," Davis said.
The 4A state tournament begins on Halloween Tuesday, with the higher seeds set to host the first-round matches at 6:30 p.m.
"Hopefully we carry this into the playoffs and keep getting better," Haglin said.