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Sunrise Mountain’s height looms large in first round

November 4, 2016 GMT

The No. 5 Sunrise Mountain Mustangs beat No. 12 Thunderbird Chiefs Wednesday night to advance to the second round of the playoffs where the Mustangs will face region rival Greenway.

The Mustangs took the match, 3-1, behind the length of their front line. The Mustangs have eight girls who are 6-feet or taller on their roster and they took full advantage of their height throughout the year behind Haley Gilmour, a 6-foot-3-inch senior who is 15th in the state 118 blocks.

The Mustangs as a team are fifth in the state with five blocks a set. The Chief’s couldn’t keep up with their smaller roster that had only one player over 6-feet.

The Mustangs now travel to No. 4 Greenway High School (37-3, 9-1) on Saturday for the second round of the playoffs. The two teams split two meetings this year.

Although Mustang’s coach Bob Levardo said that he didn’t have a preference about who they play next, senior Lauren Symington admitted that she was excited to be playing Greenway.

"It would just be like a rival game," said Symington. "They kind of trash talked us a little bit."

Sunrise Mountain jumped out to quick leads on their way to winning the first two games 25-13 and 25-14 before dropping the third game 24-26. During the third game Sunrise was unable to really go on a run and allowed Thunderbird to win the game on a 7-3 run.

The Mustangs was able to win the fourth game 25-15 with the help of an 11-3 run in the middle of the game to put them up 15-7. Throughout the whole match Thunderbird was never able to score more than three points in a row, a feat that Sunrise accomplished five times.

Sunrise Mountain went 21-7 this year and 9-1 in the 4A West Valley region, which they split with Greenway. They bettered last year’s record of 18-11 and region record of 8-3 and with this team being made up mostly of sophomores it looks like the Mustangs might become a powerhouse in the 4A conference.

The Mustangs finally were able to get out of the first round of the playoffs and are excited to play for a chance to make it to the semifinals on Tuesday. Sunrise Mountain lost in the first round each of the past two seasons.

"We are bringing back a great core next year," coach Levardo said, "This is going to help us for the next few years."

The Chiefs season is now over and after going 16-21 and 4-4 in the 4A Skyline region things are starting to look up for Thunderbird and their young roster who improved on last year’s record of 13-21 and 2-8 in their region.

"I’m excited for the years to come," Thunderbird Coach Jherra Ricks said, "I’m not going anywhere; we will be back in this position soon."