Scores were 25-19, 25-21 and 25-13.
“That was our goal tonight, to finish as the unbeaten region (Premier) champ and to be ranked No. 1. In that sense, this match was crucial,’’ said XCP coach Lamar-Renee Bryant, whose team finished the regular season at 35-3 overall and 8-0 in region play.
Xavier was one of eight teams listed by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Wednesday (Oct. 25) to be an automatic qualifier. There will be eight “play-in’’ games for teams ranked 9 through 24 on Thursday (Oct. 26), and the final brackets will be announced on Saturday (Oct. 28) at 4 p.m.
Xavier would host a first-round match on Oct. 31 and likely a quarterfinal on Nov. 2. Semifinals are Nov. 7 and finals Nov. 9, both at Gilbert Mesquite.
The Gators had the early advantage in the first game, but Hamilton did not fold. The Huskies held a 17-16 lead, but it was short-lived. Xavier earned the final four points of the game, the last coming when Hamilton returned a shot too far beyond the end line.
Hamilton stayed close in the second game. The Gators scored the final two points when the Huskies blocked a shot by Bri McKnight out of bounds and Shannon Shields came up with a block.
The third game was all Xavier. Senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner led the way with some powerful swings. The final point came when Alexis Diaz-Infante placed a return shot far into the back corner where the Huskies could not reach it.
Wagner posted 24 kills and 15 digs. McKnight, a sophomore outside hitter, had 14 kills and 12 digs. Shields, a junior setter, had 17 digs, 31 assists, 2 blocks and 3 kills. And senior libero Alyna Draper had one of her best matches of the season, particularly with her serving. She had a pair of aces, 18 digs and 9 assists.
Now the Gators will have a week to analyze their approach and make any necessary adjustments. Bryant said they also will take a close look at video of possible opponents.
“This (state tournament) is a tough environment so you have to have mental preparation,’’ she said. “We need to be mentally strong and be able to stay healthy.’’