Palo Verde boys volleyball coach Phil Clarke figured before the season the Panthers could make a run at the Mountain Region championship.
The return of Scott Solan all but guaranteed it.
Solan, a 6-foot-7-inch opposite hitter, had 20 kills on Friday night, and helped Palo Verde to a 17-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-16, 15-13 victory over host Arbor View. The Panthers (34-3) advance to the Class 4A state semifinals on Tuesday at Basic, where they’ll meet Desert Region runner-up Foothill.
The Aggies (33-6) also advance to the state semifinals and will face Desert Region champion Coronado.
“There’s a lot of heart, there’s a lot of pride,” Clarke said. “They kind of took on that us against the world mentality, it sure seems that way. It’s a great group of guys, and they just battled through the atmosphere. … It was a fun one.”
Solan, a Pepperdine recruit who declined to comment Friday, led Palo Verde to the Class 4A state championship in 2017, but sat out the 2018 season amid a busy school and club schedule. Clarke said he knew before the year, though, that Solan planned to play.
The Aggies also sport a strong roster and rode their home crowd to victories in two of the first three sets. But the Panthers pulled even by claiming the fourth set, and rallied from an 8-4 deficit in the decisive fifth.
Jared Brady had 25 kills and 17 digs for Palo Verde, and Cooper Jarman had 51 assists.
Max Senior had 32 assists, 13 digs and four aces for Arbor View, and teammate Gideon Belnap had 19 kills and three blocks.
“The expectations were pretty high. It’s pretty much the same group as last year, plus Scott coming back,” Clarke said. “Obviously, the goal is to take the next step. This is a great step, but we’re still playing.”