Home Editor's Picks Girls volleyball: Teams look end to postseason struggles

Girls volleyball: Teams look end to postseason struggles

Several of last year's All-East Valley Region first-team players return in 2017. (Courtesy of Mesa Public Schools).

The drought for Mesa city girls volleyball program is going to end at some point.

None of the seven area programs have made the state title match since 1999 when Mountain View won it all.

Can one of the seven programs breakthrough and make a run in 2017? It might be a tall order considering how good some of the programs around the Southeast Valley have developed into in recent years.

The closest a local team came to it last year was the first round of the 6A Conference state tournament as Mesa and Red Mountain were the 11th and 12th seed, respectively, before losing in the first round.

Is there a team out there than can make a deeper run? No one has been able to make the second round since 2010 when Desert Ridge made it as a 12th seed.

Here is a look at what each team has in place heading into 2017:

Desert Ridge – Brennan O’Connor takes over the program after five straight losing, but competitive seasons. The Jags were very young last season and bring back the top five hitters from last season, including leader junior Ally Duffy and top blocker Sentia Brown.

Dobson – The Mustangs have at least 10 straight losing seasons and used to be the worst team in the big school division. The program has averaged 14.4 wins a year for the last five after winning a total of seven matches in the previous five. Dobson has come a long way and new coach William Robinson is tasked with trying to get the team over the .500 hump. Seniors Lizzy Phipps and Mimi Vu will be the key cogs in getting them there.

Mesa – The Jackrabbits are in position to win 20 matches for the seventh straight season. It starts with Iowa St. commit and outside hitter Annie Hatch. The junior will be supported by sister Kate Hatch, a sophomore setter, and senior middle blocker Harley Cummard.

Mountain View – The Toros finished under .500 for the first time since 2012, but it should be a one and done situation. Coach Anthony Millanes, who has won 324 wins in 12 seasons, has a strong trio to lean on this season. The team leader in assists (senior Hannah Leblanc), kills (sophomore Hannah Decious), and blocks (senior Taleno Ta’ase) are all back this year.

“I see us battling night in and night out, with a good shot to win our section,” Millanes said.

Red Mountain – The Mountain Lions had a bit of breakthrough in 2016, winning 21 matches after combining for just 25 in the previous three seasons. Kevin Holck’s squad looks to keep the momentum rolling behind senior Kayla Subbert, junior Olivia Klafter and junior Makenna Fullford.

Skyline – The Coyotes have a new bounce in their step after bringing legendary coach Vee Hiapo, who has taken six boys teams to the state title match. She brings with her Kamaile Hiapo, an all-state transfer from Campo Verde. It mixes well with three veterans in All-City middle blocker pick Lacie Tenney, sophomore setter Gabrielle Green and senior hitter Clarissa Fernandez.

“Skyline has the ability of doing well, but will be challenged with making young choices that may lead to a tendency of errors,” Vee said. “If they can keep their error factor low, they have the fight and stamina to be very successful.”

Westwood – The Warriors have a new coach in Barbra Drake as the Warriors attempt to win more than 10 matches for the first time since 2009. Westwood will try to do so with senior setter April Tingey, senior middle Sara Hansen and senior outside hitter Brooklyn Williams.

“I feel like this will be a season of development and a new start for this Westwood program,” Drake said. “I have high hopes for this team and our future teams.”

 Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to jskoda@mynewsmesa.com.

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