From 4 to 34 in 3 Seasons: Patriots Reach 5A Volleyball State Championship Game

7 months ago Jason P. Skoda 0

Before getting to the accomplishment and mayhem that took place Wednesday night, retreat back to March 1, 2016.

The American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek boys volleyball team played its first ever match.

It didn’t last long.

Higley quickly dispatched of the Patriots in three sets. It was worse than the score – 25-6, 25-15, 25-9 – could ever suggest. No instincts, little structure and a hodge podge collection of players.

ALA – Queen Creek defeated Deer Valley, the top seed in the 5A bracket, Wednesday night. The Patriots will play Higley for the 5A state title on Friday night. (Jason P. Skoda).

Two seasons later, via Wednesday’s landmark victory, the Patriots are heading to their first championship game after upsetting No. 1 Deer Valley, 22-25, 25-13, 25-21, 25-22 in the 5A Conference semifinals.

The opponent?

Higley.

“Three years ago, we got absolutely wiped off the floor and our guys were scared to death,” ALA-QC coach Tim Zemp said. “It wasn’t much of a game. I had to actually push our guys on the court to start the game.

“I am excited about the energy we are going to bring. It will be a very, very, very different match. The seniors know the feeling of that first match. They were there when we were nothing. Nobody wanted to be part of it and we had to scrounge together players to get a team on the floor.”

It makes the way the fifth-seeded Patriots (34-3) beat Deer Valley (29-9) at Highland High that much more impressive, considering all 12 players took the floor at some point and the support the student body and community showed in the celebration.

Everyone wants to be part of it now, and it surely seemed like it when the ALA-QC players finished shaking hands with Deer Valley after freshman Mason Pace ended it with an ace and were engulfed on the floor by seemingly everyone whoever attended the school.

“It was crazy and everyone was going nuts,” senior Porter Pace said. “We played together and with  energy and I don’t think (Deer Valley) expected us to be that good. We just kept putting the pressure on them.”

 

 

The Patriots dominated throughout and led the first set 22-18 before the Hawks went on a 7-0 run to steal the win.

Other than that bad stretch ALA-QC dominated with its jump serves, getting to loose ball, receiving serves that were nosediving over the net and hitting with power and anger.

Most of all the Patriots played with an energy level that allowed them overcome mistakes – can you say service errors – and never feel like they were struggling, overwhelmed or in trouble.

ALA-QC controlled the tempo and played like the state’s top ranked team rather than its counterpart.

“When we play our game that’s our level of energy,” Zemp said. “It’s tough to keep it at that level, especially in the semifinals. When we play like that I would be hard pressed to find a team that can play us.”

The Patriots, who went 4-13 in 2016 and 15-14 in 2017, hope to bring the same level of play and the energy that follows against the Knights when they face other in Friday’s 5:15 p.m. title game at Mesquite for the first since that initial foray in 2016.

“What a story,” senior setter Reed Nelson said. “We were absolutely obliterated. We had no business being out there. The transformation to being a state title contender has been amazing. Coach Zemp has taken us here.

“We didn’t even make the playoffs last year. We were as hungry as possible and work together. I’m blown away by this. We get the ace to win it. We are 12 strong.”