Ironwood Ridge 3, Saguaro 1 (27-29, 25-18, 25-20, 25-11)
Ironwood Ridge outlasted Scottsdale Saguaro 3-1 Thursday night to improve to 2-0 while the Sabercats fell to 0-1. It was the first set given up by the Nighthawks in their young season but oh what a set it was.
Down 23-16, Saguaro went on a 8-1 run to tie the first set up 24-24. Sarah Davis came up with three kills to fuel the run while Regan Hurkett hit back-to-back kills to tie the set up after Makenna Ohlamaier gave Ironwood Ridge a brief 24-22 lead.
The Nighthawks had three more chances to win down the stretch but the Sabercats always found an answer. Macy Kurtz gave Ironwood Ridge a 27-26 lead but Davis helped close the set out with two kills and Saguaro went on to win it 29-27.
With the loss of nine seniors from last year’s Division III playoff team, Davis has inherited the leadership role for Saguaro.
“Even though we are a young team we are gaining confidence,” Davis explained. “We have a lot of talent and we will be competitive.”
Davis led Saguaro with 244 kills last year and was a member of the D-III All-State team but All-State teammates Bethany Wedepohl (ASU Sand) and Jessica Reega (Bemidji State) were part of the nine seniors who graduated.
Davis has turned down a couple of offers herself and is still looking for a college program. Senior outside hitter Regan Hurkett transferred in from Sedona Red Rock to help strengthen the Saguaro attack.
Davis finished the match with an unofficial 19 kills and Hurkett added nine but the magic of the first set would not carry over mainly to the play of Ironwood Ridge senior Macy Kurtz.
Kurtz recorded 20 kills as the Nighthawks went on the take the next three sets 25-18, 25-20 and 25-11. The closing moments of the final set was all Kurtz as she recorded three aces two kills and an assist. It was a statement of sorts for a player who had a difficult time finding playing time as a junior on a team stacked with nine seniors including Southern Arizona Player of the Year Aunesty Jantz (Regis) and top-setter Jordan Weatherless (Illinois State).
“I think the big difference from last year is that our coach has to coach more this year,” Kurtz explained. “Last year’s team was stacked so we have to be coachable. We are a work in progress.”
Kurtz is a setter in the club season but worked on her hitting in July to prepare for this season. It’s a trail her older sister Kennedy Kurtz blazed a couple of years ago when her hitting talents were needed at the high school level. Kennedy is a sophomore setter at Sacramento State.
Taking over the setting duties for the Nighthawks is senior Kayley Mohr. Another bench player as a junior, Mohr was forced to wait her turn in a program known for it’s setters.
“I’m really happy and glad to be a leader on this team,” Mohr said. “I get to show what I can do. This is my chance.”
Like Saguaro, Ironwood Ridge has benefited from a standout transfer. 6-foot-2 middle Jaelyn Olsen transferred in from Tennessee.
“Jaelyn is our tallest player so it’s a different set for me in the middle,” Mohr added. “We’ve been working on tempo in practice and we are getting it down.”
Carl DeFriez is in his first year at Saguaro. He replaced longtime coach Shannan McClure. DeFriez had a previous stint with Phoenix Thunderbird.
Saguaro will travel to Mesa Skyline next Tuesday.
Bill Lang led Ironwood Ridge to a No.1 seed last year and a second place finish in D-II. The Nighthawks will visit Sahuaro next Wednesday.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com