Enrique Ortega
ASU Student Journalist

Central celebrates “Country Night” with sweep over Fairfax

September 28, 2023 by Enrique Ortega, Arizona State University

Central’s Bethany Ulibarri winds back to serve the ball in the third set at home against Betty H. Fairfax on Wednesday night. (Enrique Ortega photo/AZPreps365)

Enrique Ortega is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Central High School for AZPreps365.com

Central’s fans dressed up in cowboy hats and boots as they celebrated a country-themed night at home and cheered on the girls volleyball team’s win over Betty H. Fairfax.

The Bobcats (6-5, 5-4) swept the Stampede, 25-11, 25-20, and 25-17, to extend their winning streak to two.  

Central coach Kristin Harris and junior Bethany Ulibarri credited the win to the crowd’s enthusiasm for the country theme. 

“I like the theme of tonight,” Ulibarri said. “I feel like that helped boost everyone's energy and just be really happy about starting the game.”

“My feet are killing me because I wore boots and I usually wear sneakers,” Harris said. “But it was well worth it. I loved seeing the girls get excited. A lot of people kind of hate on country, but tonight it really worked for us. So I loved the energy.”

Central started the night on an impressive 12-0 run thanks to freshman Alyssa Hernandez who served 11 times and recorded five aces.

“It is the game plan to have my strongest servers start,” Harris said. “So Alyssa and Beth have definitely been the strongest consistently serving and they get the job done. (The 12-0 run) was a pleasant surprise.”

The Stampede tried to find a way back into the first set but it was not enough as the Bobcats finished 25-11. 

The second set was a different story as both teams were trading points until Ulibarri kick-started a 6-0 run to go up 20-14 before Fairfax called a timeout. Ulibarri served seven times during the run and had four aces and one kill.  

The Bobcats finished the set closer in points than the first with a score of 25-20.

The third set seemed to repeat the second as both teams were going back and forth until it was Ulibarri’s turn to serve again. The junior recorded a kill before serving five times and recording three aces in a row to go up 17-10. 

“I really try to make it in all the time,” Ulibarri said. “Sometimes I'm inconsistent and I miss the serve after a streak, but I really try to do what coach says, points over power.”

Both Hernandez and Harris said the team got cocky after the dominant first set. 

“We got a little bit overconfident because we did so well,” Harris said. “And we still did really well in the second set. We battled back and I think that's sometimes harder. I think that going back and forth actually motivated them and that's what contributed to our success in the third as well.”

The Bobcats won the final set 25-17 to complete the sweep. Ulibarri finished the night with eight kills and nine aces. Other key players included Hernandez who finished with six aces and Annabella Langford who had eight kills and two aces. 

Harris gave credit to her team for asking to focus on more offensive plays during practice. 

“I have to give it up to the girls,” Harris said. “They asked for more hitting drills. They said that they wanted to do more situations so we did those two things at practice and that contributed to our win.”

Stampede coach Victoria Hernandez attributed Central’s win to their dominance in the serving game.

“It was definitely serve-receive,” Hernandez said. “Serve-receive was our number one struggle today, but that's just something that we've got to work on and build.”

Central will play at Metro Tech (9-1, 7-1) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Fairfax (1-9, 1-8) will also play at Metro Tech on Wednesday at 6 p.m.