Chandler boys’ VB focused on redemption - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler boys’ VB focused on redemption

May 2nd, 2019 development
Chandler boys’ VB focused on redemption
Sports and Recreation

Joel Viss

It’s been a year since the Chandler High School Wolves boys volleyball team made an early exit during the 2018 6A Conference Tournament.

The Wolves entered the tournament as the top-ranked team, but fell to district rival Perry in the second round. The sour taste in each player’s mouth remains to this day.

“It was devastating,” Chandler coach Bobby Robson said. “After working the whole season to become the best team and throw it away in the playoffs, it really sucked.”

The Wolves used the loss as motivation heading into the 2019 season, and have quickly established themselves as one of the best programs in the state once again.

At 22-6-4, Chandler is the second-ranked team in 6A. The Wolves sit behind top-ranked Highland High School, which handed them their only power-point loss of the season in a match that went to five sets.

Senior Adam Ray hopes to get a shot at redemption against the Highland Hawks. But he knows it will likely have to come in the state title game.

“They’re a tough team, one of the toughest in the state,” Ray said. “We played them another time in a tournament and it was nice to have another look at them again before the inevitable of playing them in the state championship.

“It gave us another look and another element of potentially beating a team that is one step closer of getting our redemption from last year.”

Chandler has done enough this season to earn an automatic bid into the state tournament. Exactly where they fall in terms of seeding remains to be seen.

But no matter where they fall, they look to carry over the dominance they’ve displayed on the court this season to the tournament.

“We worked hard in the offseason, with our clubs and with our high schools to make sure we didn’t feel the same way the seniors last year felt,” outside hitter Braxton Bradbeer said. “I think that if we keep playing like we’re playing and stay determined and focused, we’ll be fine.”

Despite Chandler’s dominance, its journey to this point to this season hasn’t been easy. Several key players have dealt with injuries this season, and the team’s losses in major tournaments have left disdain in Robson’s eyes.

“We have had players injured, and we’ve overcome these injuries,” Robson said. “But sometimes the team will get lackadaisical and lose games we can win, and I don’t think that’s okay if we’re trying to compete for a championship.”

Chandler’s loss to Brophy in the Wolf Howl Invitational in March has stuck with the team.

“When we lost to Brophy, everyone was bummed out because we just let that game slip away and it could have been won,” senior setter Trey Weinstein said. “At the same time it brought us closer together to become the better team we are today.”

Chandler’s rise to the top of the rankings was a work in progress when Robson took over the program in 2015.

The Wolves won just five games in Robson’s first season, but improved in his second year and finished 18-18. They became legitimate state-title contenders in 2017 and have maintained that image ever since.

Now in his fifth season, Robson is hoping to finally lead the program to its first championship—but he knows it won’t be handed to him.

“It won’t be easy,” Robson said. “There are a lot of tough teams in competition this year and we are just one of them. We have had success these last two weeks, but it’s different in the playoffs.

“If we play our game, we will be good.”

Chandler finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. Even then, the team is aware that the team could slip up at any given moment in the playoffs.

It’s important for the Wolves to maintain their focus when a just one loss is all that is needed to end their season.

“I think the kids understand that if teams start winning games then their confidences start to grow and it increases their chances of beating us,” Robson said.

One of the main advantages that Chandler has heading into the postseason is playing on its home court. With a top-3 seeding, the Wolves have a chance to stay at home through the quarterfinals.

All semi-final games will be played at nearby Campo Verde High School, which will still provide an advantage should they play a team from outside of the East Valley.

“Our fans come and support us every game,” Weinstein said. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing an away game, we always have the most fans cheering us on.

“I think our team fuels off of all the support generated from the fans and it shows by how we’ve been playing these last few weeks and hopefully it continues going into the playoffs.”

There’s no question that Chandler is determined to erase last year’s loss in the tournament, and there’s no better way to do that than winning the state title.

“It would all come full circle,” Ray said. “How everything ended last year and how we took care of business this year.  We just need to get the job done and I think we can do it.”