KINGMAN Aside from the absence of a roaring "We're No.1" chant with Queen's "We are the Champions" tune playing in the background, Wednesday night's gut-wrenching match between Kingman and Marcos de Niza in the first round of the Class 5A Division II state volleyball tournament had all the components of a game-for-the-ages classic.
But on a night when neither team deserved to lose or be knocked out of the tournament, once the dust kicked up by two teams that fought through 30 tie scores, 11 game points, 10 lead changes, seven match points, and a handful of controversial calls and endless rallies was finally settled, an unlikely hero emerged from the home team to help the No. 8 Bulldogs complete a three-game comeback over the No. 9 Padres 25-27, 25-18, 28-26 and extend their season for at least one more match.
Kingman senior Kayla Campbell, who has been a mainstay in the Bulldogs' rotation but not considered one of the Bulldogs' key offensive weapons, staved off one of Marcos de Niza's six match points in Game 3 with a tough dig and drilled home the final two points of the match to shut the door on a dramatic evening.
"After I saw that dig, I knew we were winning," Kingman's Tristin Phillips said. "It was one of the best hits and probably one of the best digs all year. Our team is so fired up right now I think we can go all the way."
And while Campbell was the one who put the exclamation point on the win, several different Bulldogs came through at different times to overcome the nerves and mistakes that cost them Game 1 and avoid a first-round letdown.
"We just had seniors who looked like they weren't going to get it done the first game and finally decided we gotta play ball," Kingman coach Amy West said of her team's poor start.
The Bulldogs continually hurt themselves in Game 1 with a tentative offensive attack and five serving errors, never falling behind by more than four points but never seeing the lead after a 1-0 start. Marcos de Niza's Stephanie Snow made her presence known with four kills, and the Padres took the opening game.
"I was hesitating if I was going to leave Tristin in, but she's a senior," West said. "She's gotta step up and do it, and she did."
Tired of worrying about Marcos de Niza's tall and intimidating front line, Phillips was the first Kingman attacker to unload a big kill on the Padres early in Game 2. Her teammates followed suit, as each of the Bulldogs started taking big swings and seeing results, including Tristin's younger sister Blakely Phillips. Tied at 10-all, the sister act combined for a block, an ace and two kills during the next ten points to give Kingman a 17-13 lead, and each added another kill in the Bulldogs' seven-point run that ended one game and forced the two teams to play another one.
"It think it's the crowd mainly," Blakely Phillips said regarding her team's Game 2 turnaround. "When we're home and when you get the crowd going, it gets your energy high."
Said Tristin. "It was weird because during regional play we came out strong in the first game and fell apart in the second, and today we changed it around and it worked out for the best."
Both teams battled back and forth in Game 3, trading leads four times and never gaining more than a two-point advantage to a 14-all tie. After being a non-factor in Game 2, Marcos de Niza went back its 6-foot-2-inch junior, feeding Snow the ball the rest the way to take the lead at 19-18 and build a 24-21 lead. But Snow couldn't connect on three kill attempts at 24-22, missed again at 24-23, and served the ball into the net at 26-25. Kingman took advantage of the situation, setting up Campbell for a crosscourt kill to take the lead and sealing the win with another unreturnable shot from Campbell down the line.
"She lost her hops there at the end because they kept going to her, " West said of Snow. "And for us to be down 24-21, a lot of times a team will hesitate at that point because of nerves, but these guys made the pass, made a set and stuck to their game plan."
Snow finished the night with 16 kills to lead the Padres, and Kasey Estes had seven kills and five digs. Clarissa Andorfer had 11 digs, and Aubrey Funk added 23 assists. Kingman's Rachael Bracy shook off a slow start to finish with 11 kills, followed by Tristin Phillips with nine kills and 18 perfect passes. Blakely Phillips added seven kills and 17 assists, Kamber Butler had six kills and Katelyn Wilson had 11 assists.
"When you have that balance and are getting that many kills from that many spots, the other team has a hard time defending it," West said. "Kamber hasn't hit like that all season and finally hit the ball tonight, and Katelyn was missing those tight sets in the beginning of the year and has come around."
The Bulldogs will head to the Glendale Arena this weekend for their second-round game against top-seeded Desert Mountain at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Desert Mountain advanced with a 25-10, 25-14 win over 16th-seeded Sunnyside. All of the top eight seeds won their games on Wednesday and play on at 10 p.m. Friday.