Chase Clemens
ASU Student Journalist

Chandler girls win 2nd straight, sweep Maricopa

September 8, 2023 by Chase Clemens, Arizona State University

Chandler warms up before its match against Maricopa on Wednesday at Maricopa High School. Kamryn Itzen (right) recorded 13 kills, two blocks and two aces. (Chase Clemens photo/AZPreps365)

Chase Clemens is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Chandler High School for

It was a night to remember for senior middle hitter Kamryn Itzen. Not only did she lead her team to a road victory at Maricopa High School Wednesday night, but it was also her birthday. Itzen laughed with her teammates, friends, and family after the match to celebrate.

There’s no better gift than a team victory.

The Wolves overcame a 6-1 deficit in the first set to win the match, 25-14, 25-17, and 25-19 in straight sets over the previously undefeated Maricopa Rams (3-1). The sluggish start was the only time the Wolves trailed by more than four points in any set of the match.

“Sometimes we kind of wait for a team to do something before we start,” Chandler Coach Nathan Saunders said. “They (Maricopa) did a really good job of getting pressure on us on the serve right away. And then we finally got our feet underneath us and were able to minimize some of those receivers, to get ourselves in play and to get out in our system with our passing.”

Down 9-3, Chandler stormed back thanks to the dominant play of Itzen, Marley Avechuco and Prycelyss Mayon. With the score tied 10-10, the Wolves won 10 of the next 12 points and 15 of 19 to take the first set.

The trio were responsible for 40 of the team’s 75 points. Avechuco’s 16 kills led the team, while Itzen’s 6-foot-1-inch height advantage disrupted the Maricopa front-line hitters. She recorded 13 kills to go along with a pair of aces and blocks.

“I just like to keep the energy high,” Itzen said. “I guess that's my favorite part about playing volleyball, the energy and encouraging my teammates.”

Chandler carried its momentum into the second set to build a 6-1 lead of their own thanks to three kills apiece from Itzen and Avechuco. The Rams closed the gap with the help of the aggressive play of junior outside hitter Brianna Pino.

Tied 14-14, the Wolves won 11 of the next 14 points to take the second set thanks to a 4-0 run behind Avechuco’s powerful serve and a series of kills from Mayon. Mayon finished with nine kills and suffocated the Rams offense by locking down the middle of the court on defense.  

“My teammates and I build off each other’s energy,” Avechuco said. “When it's low, we're all low, but we all build it up at the end of the game and we came out with the win today.”

The final set was a stark contrast from the momentum swings of the first two. Neither team could separate themselves by more than three points until the match was tied 19-19. Itzen’s go-ahead block gave the Wolves a 20-19 advantage.

Senior setter Rhys Cayton served the next five points, and Chandler won the final set and match on a 6-0 run. Itzen put an exclamation point on her birthday celebration with a pair of kills during the streak.

“We had a lot of hesitation in the back row,” Maricopa Coach Tia Kannapel said. “I think that's what affected us overall, because normally we just go and play. And tonight, we looked really tense and kind of on our heels and surprised.”

The Wolves are back in action on Monday at 6 p.m. when they travel to Cibola High School (0-5). Maricopa visits Desert Vista (2-1) on Monday at 6 p.m.