7A-8: Mitchell makes it five straight titles
TRINITY – Coming off of a state runnerup showing last year, Mitchell came back this year with a renewed sense of motivation. That fuel culminated in a fifth straight district title on Thursday night.
The host Mustangs topped Sunlake in three sets (25-21, 25-16, 25-14). The Class 7A, District 8 championship was decided in a rematch of last year’s contest with similar results.
After their historic run in 2015, Mitchell (19-4) lost three of its four top hitters and head coach Keith Paulk to retirement. New coach Heidi Michaels did not seem to miss a beat, leading this group to the same regular-season record and another district crown.
“I look at this as a completely different team from last year,” Michaels said. “At the same time, Keith (Paulk) is our biggest fan, and there is motivation to keep up this tradition for him and for the school.”
Sunlake (14-12) did not make it easy for the top-seeded Mustangs. A run at the end of the first set kept it close, but in the end, too many hitting miscues and a balanced attack up front from Mitchell proved too much. In the second set, the Seahawks were far more in tune, creating more rallies. The Mustangs, however, also stepped up their collective game, finding a groove late to run away with it.
Mitchell will now make its seventh straight trip to the postseason and ninth overall. Junior Mariella Haimes led the way for the Mustangs with 10 kills and two aces, backed up by fellow juniors Morgin Tew (eight kills) and Jessie Mooney (seven kills, two aces). Senior Kayla Farrell added two aces, and sophomore Kennedy DeLuca racked up seven kills.
“We struggled a little in the first set, and that was out of character for us,” Michaels said. “You saw some players step up. Mariella can do it all, playing defense and up front.”
The Seahawks will be making their third postseason appearance. The team was led by senior captain Hannah Presson and her seven kills.