Southern Arizona’s girls’ volleyball teams are about to get to know each other a lot better, as both the 5A-II and 4A-I tournaments begin Thursday.

In 4A-I, the stakes are high.

The format of the tournament: #3 plays #4, the winner plays #2, and whoever wins that matchup plays the #1 team in the region, with the top two finishers automatically qualifying for state. In the Sonoran region, that means that #4 Cholla (3-14) will play #3 Marana (7-10) in the first round, with #2 CDO waiting in the second round, and #1 Catalina Foothills awaiting the overall winner.

In 5A-II, the format is the same, but only the top team automatically qualifies for state.

Since Southern region #1 Ironwood Ridge and #2 Mountain View have already qualified, this makes a tournament victory crucial for region #3 Rincon (10-7) and #4 Sunnyside (1-16).

State tournaments: State volleyball action starts Nov. 8, and five area squads have earned spots in the competition with stellar regular season play and will now look to bring a state title to Southern Arizona. Here is a small sample of what fans can expect.

Ironwood Ridge: The Nighthawk volleyball team should feel pretty domestic during the first two rounds of the 5A-II state tournament, held Nov. 12-18. Ironwood Ridge is 16-1 and ranked #1 in the state, giving it home court advantage until the Saturday semifinals in Phoenix.

And, as Coach Bill Lang pointed out, “Ironwood Ridge has never lost a playoff game at home.”

Senior libero Michelle Link and junior middle blocker Briana Hughes provide defense on a team that has proved rock solid at preventing opponents from scoring. Offensive firepower in 2008 has been courtesy of outside hitters Kirsten Linaker (senior) and Michaela Christiaansen (sophomore). Ironwood Ridge made it to the fourth round of last year’s tournament before losing to Glendale Ironwood.

Mountain View: When the Mountain Lions lost to Rincon Oct. 30, they narrowly missed earning home court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, but will have it for the first match thanks to 12-5 record and a #5 state ranking. Senior outside hitter Courtne McIntosh’s finesse shots, which generally fall slightly past middle blockers, have been a solid source of Mountain View points, and 6-foot senior Danielle Courtney provides the height and jumping ability to stuff opponents at the net.

CDO: The Dorados, in the final season of coach Melva Lundy’s long career, are ranked #9 in 4A-I, and will mostly likely be playing at home for the first round of the playoffs thanks to an 13-5 record built largely on a defense that shut out competitors in nine different matches, allowing no game losses. That defense will be the Dorados’ chance at a long postseason run, counting heavily on middle blocker Sarah Batterton and libero Hannah Sitter, both juniors. The offensive kills will come from junior opposite hitter Stephanie Ziegler with sets from senior Arianna Morales.

Catalina Foothills: When 12-5 Foothills beat 1-14 Pueblo on Oct. 30, the Falcons jumped CDO to gain the #8 ranking statewide, as well as home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Falcons’ offensive push will come from junior setter Rachel Coury and sophomore Leah Woznica. On defense, junior libero Raquel Carranza will look to shut out opposing offenses.

Pusch Ridge: The second-ranked Lions (16-1) narrowly missed an undefeated regular season with an Oct. 25 loss to #1 Northwest Christian. On Nov. 7, Pusch Ridge takes its title hopes to Peoria High School, site of the 2A state tournament, where the Lions were ousted in the first round of last year’s event. Looking to avoid a similar result and foil scoring opportunities will be middle blockers Hanna McLeod (senior) and Cheyene Link (junior). Points will come from scoring duo sophomore outside hitter Quincy Cooper and senior setter Morgan Van Stelle.

Championship matches

5A-II — 6 p.m.,Tuesday, November 18 at Brophy College Prep

4A-I — 8 p.m., Monday, November 17 at Brophy College Prep

2A — 6 p.m., Saturday, November 8 at Peoria High School

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