Desert Vista's surprise season almost ended in one.

The Thunder played their way into a four seed in the Class 5A Division I girls volleyball state tournament despite entering the season with a young and inexperienced roster.

Then Desert Vista played like all Molly West-coached teams - hard and fundamentally sound - and ended up winning 27 regular season matches and finished second in the Fiesta Region.

Yet it almost ended abruptly by an upstart 12th seed as Mesa Desert Ridge nearly pulled off another tournament upset before the Thunder pulled out a five-set win, 24-26, 19-25, 25-12, 25-18, 15-11, to advance to Saturday's semifinals.

"They came out strong and we didn't have an answer at first," sophomore setter Michelle Steagall said. "In the third game, we got back to our level of play and started getting momentum."

The comeback was complete on Jaymee Brugman's kill in Game 5 to close out the Jaguars (27-11).

"We had to change things up because they were really hurting us on the right side," West said. "We moved McKella (Williams) to the right side and it helped a lot. After that it was up to the girls to work out of it and they did."

Desert Vista (29-12) advances to take on 39-5 and top-seed Phoenix Xavier, a team that beat the Thunder twice in the regular season in Fiesta Region action, at 6 p.m. at Phoenix North Canyon High.

"Their goals are really high and trust me when I say they worked really hard," West said. "They have come back after matches this year knowing their effort needed to be more if they wanted to reach them. The bottom line is we are young, but when we play like we can we have a chance to play with anyone."

Williams, who also had 16 digs, Brooke Honeycutt and Anniiya Robinson all finished with 20 kills, while Sydney Schumacher had 35 digs and Renea Sneigowski had 29.

"Anniiya found a little bit of mojo on offensive about three weeks ago and it has really helped us offensively," West said.

Desert Ridge was led by Talia Jones' 17 kills and just might have pulled off another upset had middle blocker Lexi Crist not re-injured her ankle and missed the final two games and part of Game 3.

Honeycutt said the key was never turning on each other, but focusing that negative attention on the opponent.

"We didn't let it get to us," she said. "We lost the first two, but we knew in Game 3 if played like that the rest of the way we would be OK. We can't have another match like that."

Class 2A

Horizon Honors won its first round match 25-17, 25-17, 25-20 against Camp Verde, the 17th seed, on Thursday at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.

The Eagles, the 16th seed, advance to take on No. 1 Thatcher at 10 a.m. on Friday.



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