Dominating the first two sets of the match, the Coconino Panthers cruised to a 25-10, 25-14, 25-20 victory Thursday night on their home court against the Bradshaw Mountain Bears.
Ranked No. 8 in the AIA’s initial rankings, the Panthers (5-2, 3-0 Grand Canyon) entered the day as the top Grand Canyon Region school. With its only two losses coming to No. 2 Cactus Shadows and No. 3 Sunrise Mountain, Coconino’s average opponent rating ranks as one of the best in the state.
“It was really nice and it was a good confidence booster too,” said Panthers first-year head coach Bree Davis, with the team’s victory its first in the regular season on its home court. “We had a great crowd tonight.”
Holding up to their ranking in the first two sets, the Panthers took a 5-1 advantage to start the opening set while never allowing the No. 28 Bears (3-5, 1-3) to take a lead. Compiling a 9-2 run to finish the set, a kill by Lauren Touchstone started the run with Dana Parker and Shae Dahl following with kills of their own.
After a service error by Bradshaw Mountain put Brooke Parker at the service line leading 21-10, the Panthers rolled through to the set victory with Sydney Swanson ending it on a kill.
“We are really trying to go undefeated in conference right now and these region games just to get us going into state,” Davis said, with Coconino now 3-0 in the region and dropping just two sets in the process.
The second set eventually came to a similar result, with Coconino turning a 7-6 lead into a 17-8 advantage thanks to a run of serves by Dana Parker and Ashley Monette. Dana Parker put herself at the service line with a kill from the middle before Monette took to the line with a 13-8 lead on another kill by Parker, who finished with 23 in the match.
Monette’s ace, one of four in the match, kept her at the line for another four points as the Panthers took hold of another set. Dana Parker started the final push with a dig to Brooke Parker, who set Dana for the first of three kills in the final six points of the set.
The third set ended up as more of a battle between the schools, with Coconino and Bradshaw Mountain tying 13 times and alternating points through the first eight of the set.
“The first two sets we started off very strong and got us some confidence,” Davis said. “Then that third set we didn’t start off nearly as strong so our confidence wasn't quite there.”
Adding that her team’s passing struggled in the third set more than it did early on, Davis said she was happy the team found its footing late to close out the sweep.
Trailing 17-12 after Bradshaw Mountain rattled off a 6-0 stretch, Dana Parker put down a kill to end the run and start Coconino’s own 6-0 spurt to regain the lead. Fighting back-and-forth to a 20-20 tie, the Panthers closed out on a 5-0 run with Sophie Sinek ending the match on a kill from the middle.
The Panthers play a pair of matches back-to-back to start next week, traveling to Cottonwood to play No. 29 Mingus Union on Monday before hosting No. 13 Mohave on Tuesday.