In a game stocked full of similarities, No. 1-seeded Ironwood Ridge defeated Glendale's eighth-seeded Ironwood Eagles in straight sets 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 Thursday, advancing the Nighthawks to their fourth straight semifinal game.
The Nighthawks share a similar school name with the Eagles. Both have birds for mascots, and their playing styles are comparable.
"We struggled Tuesday with Millennium because their playing style was so different from ours," said Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang. "But today we were much more comfortable, because playing Ironwood is like playing our second squad."
The similarities end, however, in the Nighthawks' ability to close out sets.
Despite the Eagles keeping the match close, the Nighthawks used timely strings of points to pull away and win each set. They never trailed once they hit the 20-point mark.
"We stayed calm, cool and collected," said junior setter Chloe Heinenmann. "We were able to put together some runs and stay ahead."
After two closely contested sets, the Nighthawks looked as if they would close out the third set quickly, jumping to an 11-6 lead, only to see the Eagles chip away and draw to within three points.
The Nighthawks traded points with the Eagles until they led 22-19, where they scored the next three points to seal the match.
"I felt like we really controlled the tempo tonight," said Lang. "There are three things you need to win. You have to have talent, you have to be playing well, which we were doing tonight, and you have to be a little lucky."
The Nighthawks move on to face fifth-seeded Desert Mountain at North Canyon High School on Saturday at 2 p.m.
• Phoenix Xavier 3, Salpointe Catholic 0: At Xavier, the Lancers' season came to an end in straight sets 25-13, 25-15 and 25-18.
Salpointe, seeded eighth, received seven kills apiece from Emily Malisewski and Catie Coyle.
Haley Howell had 24 assists to lead the Lancers. Abby Reuland and Elisa Duarte each had five digs.
The Lancers finished the regular season with a 12-7 nontournament record.