The Ironwood Ridge High School volleyball team is on a tear, collecting wins with relative ease.
The Nighthawks (8-7) did just that against long-time rival Rincon/University High School last Wednesday, sweeping the Rangers to earn their sixth-consecutive win.
Coach Bill Lang, who started his career as an assistant with the Rangers, breathed a sigh of relief post-game, knowing how tough it is to beat Rincon/University on its home court.
“We told them that anytime Ironwood Ridge can come into Rincon and win in three, you know you did something really good,” Lang said. “Rincon is always good. They’re always defensive minded. They take really good swings at the ball. They’re disciplined … I think it’s a huge compliment to this group that we won in three tonight against a pretty good Rincon team.”
The Nighthawks’ success on Wednesday came on the play of their front line of Katie Birtcil, Alyssa Feltman and Sasha Ross—who had 21 kills to six errors for the squad.
Lang believes the team’s recent success is a direct result of their growing on-court camaraderie and knowledge of the intricacies of the sport.
“I think one thing is that they’re just starting to understand how to play together more. We started off our season at a bang,” he said. “With teams that were just already in rhythm and stuff and we were trying to figure some stuff out.”
The team’s serving was much improved against the Rangers, completing 93.2 percent of their serves, with five errors on 73 attempts—four points higher than their yearlong average of 89.3 percent.
Lang praised the effort that his players exhibited against their rivals from Midtown Tucson, fighting off early struggles to win the 31st contest between the programs.
“I think our schools are similar, they get good kids. They’ve got club kids. They’ve got good coaches every year,” Lang said. “They do a good job. And, so it’s never easy coming in here.”
IRHS placed its recent win streak on the line this weekend in Chandler, where they’ll compete in the Nike Tournament of Champions.
Lang is excited to see how his players handle the event, playing top-notch teams from Florida, Southern California and the Phoenix area.
He believes the tournament will help his players gain a greater level of insight into the styles of play that they’ll see come playoff time.
“For us, it’s another opportunity to play teams from across the country,” he said. “And, so we get different of styles of play. We get different ways that they try to do things. We see different bodies, different looks, and I think that all helps us with our learning curve.”
The Nighthawks kicked off sectional play at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, against Marana High School after print deadline.
Elsewhere, the Marana Tigers won three matches in as many days against Sahuarita, Sabino and Pueblo, sweeping all three. The Tigers defeated Nogales, 3-1, last Thursday night to improve their record to 7-2.
The Mountain View Lions lost their lone match of the week against Cienega in five sets—25-21, 19-25, 19-25, 25-16, 10-15.
The Lions (8-11) face Empire High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, in their next matchup.
The Canyon del Oro Dorados defeated Tanque Verde High School in straight sets on Tuesday, Sept. 18 and Catalina Foothills on Thursday to remain undefeated at 7-0.
The Dorados square off against Salpointe Catholic in their next match at home on Tuesday, Sept. 25 after press deadline.
The Falcons of Catalina Foothills went 2-1 last week, defeating Sunnyside (3-1) and Buena (3-0), before falling to CDO on Thursday to fall to 6-7 this season.