After years of narrowly falling in contention for a state championship, the Millennium Tigers volleyball team has a chance to claim a repeat. The Tigers swept Centennial 25-13, 25-20, 25-19 on Saturday to earn a spot in the 2019 AIA 5A Volleyball State Championship match.
Both teams boasted great setters and outside hitters, able to slam a ball at any point. While Millennium racked up kills all match, even some of the best Centennial hits were passed back in the air with little difficulty to keep points alive.
“Our defense was really scrappy. Coach always tells us to keep everything we can off the ground, so that’s exactly what we did,” said junior Jordan Miller.
The defense and hitting was at its best for Millennium in the first set. The Tigers rolled to an early lead, and everything seemed to be going right. Junior Olivia Flanagan recorded an accidental kill when the ball hit off her face and into Centennial’s territory to grow the first-set lead to 23-13 before winning it.
“There was definitely a little bit of luck there, nobody knew where the ball even was,” said coach Julie Vastine, chuckling, “But she was in the right spot and that’s exactly what we tell them to do.”
Centennial tightened up in the second set, keeping the score close nearly the entire time. But, Millennium pulled ahead in the final points to win.
Even down 2-0 in sets, the Coyotes held strong. The Tigers took a 19-15 lead and appeared to be cruising to the sweep, but Centennial won four consecutive points to tie the set at 19-19. From there, the Tigers won on a tremendous kill en route to winning six straight points and the match.
Miller served the final five points, giving her senior teammates one last celebration to remember in their final home match of their high school careers.
“I wanted to give the girls a chance to get back to the same point we made it to last year, to end their last seasons on a good note,” Miller said.
There will be plenty of time to reflect on the season and each players’ volleyball careers after Tuesday, but the Tigers have their minds set on a repeat state championship for now. They will face Sunnyslope in a rematch of the 2018 final. The Vikings beat Millennium 2-1 in a tournament earlier this season.
Vastine said it should be an exciting match, with history and tough battles remembered by both sides. However, she said the team is happy to have another opportunity for a title.
“I don’t think it mattered to the girls who’s on the other side. What they cared about is making it to this game again, and they did that, so everyone’s excited,” said
The 5A state championship match will start at 5:30 p.m. at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe on Tuesday Nov. 12.