Casteel cruises to first-ever boys’ volleyball state title - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Casteel cruises to first-ever boys’ volleyball state title

May 24th, 2021 development
Casteel cruises to first-ever boys’ volleyball state title
Sports and Recreation

By Brittany Bowyer
Contributing Writer

It wasn’t long ago that the future of high school sports in Arizona was still up in the air.

The winter sports season was postponed twice, cancelled and then given the green light with various restrictions. No fans aside from parents were allowed inside venues and masks had to be worn at all times.

Fast forward to May 15 and the gym inside of Skyline High School was near full capacity for the 5A volleyball championship between top-ranked Casteel and No. 2 Cienega. Students packed the stands, sporting smiles for all to see and created an electric atmosphere that made Saturday’s title game feel like a “normal” sporting event.

When play began, however, the buzz from fans of both schools quickly faded as Casteel went on to dominate Cienega to win the boys’ volleyball program’s first-ever state title, 3-0.

Casteel jumped out to an early 5-2 lead but Cienega hung around throughout most of the first set. A net violation followed by back-to-back kills by Casteel seniors Dallon Hunt and Kyler Evans gave the Colts a jolt of energy to cruise to a 25-15 victory in the first set of the match. 

“(Evans) is just such a talented individual, such a great student-athlete,” Casteel coach Ryan Myen said. “I know when the ball is put his way, it’s going down almost every time… He’s just a leader, he’s a captain on this team, he has fire, emotion and he just does things the right way.”

Cienega started the second set a little stronger and went back-and-forth early on. However, consecutive aces from senior Noah Solomonson helped nudge Casteel ahead.

From there, the Colts were able to jump out to a 20-11 lead before Cienega finally found an answer. Despite a strong rally by the Bobcats, it wasn’t enough as Casteel took a 2-0 lead winning the second set 25-20.

One set away from the title, Casteel didn’t let the excitement of its lead distract its players from finishing strong. Cienega hustled on the court to did everything in its power to force a fourth set and stay alive in the match. At one point, a player chased the ball so far out of bounds he ran into railing on the bleachers in an attempt to keep it in play.

However, Casteel already controlled all the momentum in the match. After a couple of controversial calls, emotions began to boil over for Cienega as officials issued a red card to head coach Heather Mott. Casteel went on to finish the third set with a 25-14 win and a sweep of Cienega, which had only lost five sets all year.

“We just worked over and over and we studied a lot of film on Cienega. We had our goal all season and we weren’t letting anything derail us,” Myen said. “We knew Cienega was undefeated, they were only up here once against a tough Williams Field team that we knocked off, so we wanted to make sure we were ready for whatever they were throwing at us and I think we were more than ready tonight.”

As a member of the AIA Executive Board, Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel, alongside AIA Executive Director David Hines, presented the championship trophy to the school named in her honor. Students started making their way onto the court afterwards to celebrate with the team. A large circle was formed on the court to celebrate the team’s championship.

“With men’s volleyball, it’s never been super popular, so to know that we have that many people just rushing at us, just to feel the love, it’s amazing to know the school has your back and not just your team,” Evans said.

Myen said the championship was in honor of last year’s seniors who had their season cut short due to the pandemic.

“After being shut down last year, we had a ton of seniors who lost their season, we did everything for them,” Myen said. “The pink jerseys represented on the chairs tonight, those were all their jerseys and we wanted to make sure we honored them.

“Then to turn around and see our student sections… I was really impressed with our students.”

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