Xavier Prep’s volleyball team walked into the gym at Gilbert Perry on Wednesday (Sept. 14) to face the upstart Pumas, who were 13-0 entering the contest.
The Gators, who were 5-0 and ranked second in the new 6A Division by azcentral.com, appeared to be on the verge of putting Perry in its place.
Xavier won the first two games by identical 26-24 scores.
The Gators never got their decisive third victory, falling victim to a 25-21, 25-21, 17-15 rally by the Pumas in an emotionally draining, playoff-type atmosphere.
So a trip to Las Vegas for the annual Durango Tournament got a lot longer for the Gators.
In each of the five games, the winners overcame significant leads.
Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant was wary even after her team won the first two.
“We gutted out games one and two,’’ she said.
Things began to unravel about midway through the third game. Xavier held a 15-10 lead but was outscored 15-6 the rest of the way.
The momentum had shifted, and the slide continued from there. The Pumas have now defeated defending state champion Phoenix Desert Vista and runner-up Xavier in an impressive run.
Bryant saw breakdowns in her team’s serves and passing.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,’’ she said. “We made poor decisions.
“Perry is a great team and they fought to the bitter end.’’
Xavier highlights included the play of seniors Kristen Klein, Grace Morrison and Emma Gelinas.
The realignment to 6A has created regions (XCP is in the Premier Region) in which the teams are playing schedules similar to days gone by. Xavier plays its region opponents twice in a home-and-home series.
“The good thing is we play them again (Oct. 19 at Xavier),’’ Bryant said. “It stings, but we are going to circle this one. We’re going to have to bounce back.’’