Matador volleyball faces Eastern Arizona in Region I Final
Third straight meeting in Final
There is a recent trend the Arizona Western volleyball team would like to put an end to.
When the Matadors take the court against Eastern Arizona at 7 p.m. tonight at The House, it will be the third straight year Arizona Western has faced the Gila Monsters in the NJCAA Region I Final. The past two seasons, the Gila Monsters won in a sweep.
But Round 3 comes in a different year with different teams — and, most importantly, a different location.
“The biggest thing is the last two times we were at Eastern, and this time we're at home,” Matador coach Jason Smith said. “I think this time of year that's a big deal with the travel. We're practicing (Tuesday) and they're probably not. They only won I think three road matches on the year, so I think that's a big deal.”
Arizona Western is hosting the Region I Final after the Matadors, Eastern Arizona, Central Arizona and Yavapai all finished 10-6 in the regular season. When the dust settled on the tie-breakers, the Matadors emerged as the No. 1 seed.
In 2010, after the teams split the season series, the Gila Monsters swept the Matadors in the Region I Final in Thatcher. A year later — Eastern winning all three matches during the regular season — the Gila Monsters once again swept the Matadors in the Region I Final in Thatcher.
However, Smith and the Matadors are looking at the not-so-distant past, instead. In their match against the Gila Monsters on Oct. 24, the Matadors came out and cruised to a 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 sweep at home in one of their most convincing wins of the season.
“That's one of the top two or three, if not the best,” Smith said. “And what's important is that just happened last week. That's who we are right now. You can look at a match earlier in the year and they were playing really well and you can't count on them now. Or a team (was) playing really poorly back then.”
During the 2012 season, the Matadors have a 2-1 record against the Gila Monsters, including a 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21 win in Thatcher earlier in the season. Their only loss came in a five-set thriller in Thatcher on Oct. 3.
The win on Oct. 24 put the Matadors in the driver's seat to host the Region I Final but they had to earn it through tie-breakers after they dropped two matches against Yavapai at home on Friday. Regardless that the Matadors didn't win a set against the Roughriders, Smith feels his team has recovered.
There is a trend of Region I Final losses to change for the Matadors and if they play the way they did in their last meeting against the Gila Monsters this season, it could be the home team that once again wins the title.
“The drills we ran (on Monday) were the best we've looked in that setting. I'm pretty happy with that,” Smith said. “I think there's just an awful lot of confidence on this team.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.