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Volleyball season ends after Mesa, Skyline lose in first round

Mesa girls volleyball coach Amy Strawn (middle) tries to talk the Jackrabbits out of a early match funk. (Jason P. Skoda/MyNewsMesa.com)

The girls volleyball season has come to an end after the first round of the 6A Conference state tournament.

The Mesa and Skyline programs reached some milestone this season before having it come short of the ultimate goal.

Mesa won at least 20 matches for the seventh straight season, won the East Valley Region, the Mesa City title for the sixth straight year and what is believed to be a school-record 31 matches this season.

It’s a high standard to maintain, but the Jackrabbits keep it right there despite limited rosters within the program.

“I think we are doing a great job staying steady while faced with decreased participation in my sport at our school,” Mesa longtime coach Amy Strawn said. Our school population is huge, but our athlete turnout is shrinking each year. This is a high dollar sport with the club scene controlling so much and our girls don’t play high level club yet we keep hanging in there. We are not the big programs – we don’t have the horses, but we have a lot of heart and pride.”

And it showed this season.

The Jackrabbits made the Gold bracket of the Westwood tournament by going 6-0 in pool play before losing in the quarterfinals.

Along the way the Jackrabbits beat Hamilton in the September tournament but were unable to do the same on Tuesday.

The sixth-seeded Huskies swept No. 11 Mesa 25-17, 25-20, 25-19.

The Jackrabbits were a very senior-laden squad with only three players – junior Annie Hatch, junior Brielle Bowden and sophomore Kate Hatch – coming back. The senior class leaves with a high standard and expectation in place for the program and winning 20 matches more than it lost at 31-11.

Seniors like Harley Cummard (221 kills, 49 aces, 131 blocks), Ally Abbott (158 kills), Eliza Heiney (121 blocks), Calee Cummard (305 digs), Brandi Long (264 digs), Kaitlyn Foster (433 assists), among others, all contributed their own way.

“This senior class is a special group,” Strawn said. “To have nine of them last for all four years is amazing. Last year, I only had two seniors and I currently only have two juniors in our program.  Many of them played together as eighth-graders. They are leaving a legacy of family and dedication.  They are cousins, best friends, starters, last ones off the bench, etc., but still at every summer work out, summer league match, camp – as a worker or participant – and I could not have asked for more out of them.”

The memories from the season will stick with the senior class.

“I will remember when we beat Hamilton in the Nike tournament and made it to the gold bracket,” senior Harley Cummard said. “But what I will remember most is the love for the game my team had and how much time and effort we put into it.”

Skyline reached new heights in the second half of the season, winning 16 straight matches to win its division at the Nike Tournament of Champions and finish second in the East Valley Region.

This from a program that won a total of 18 matches from 2007 to 2013 and hasn’t had a winning record in the MaxPreps era (dating back to 2007).

The streak came to end Tuesday when the 15th-seeded Coyotes (22-17) were swept by No. 1 Corona del Sol, 25-10, 25-22 25-15.

“We can only go up,” Skyline coach Vee Hiapo said. “It’s a good start. Our philosophy is in place. We head into club season now and we have eight months to strengthen more with the current knowledge obtained from this season.”

Skyline had a good mix of seniors and underclassmen contributing, but will have to adjust next year without Lacey Tenney (214 kills, 57 blocks), Clarissa Fernandez (128 kills, 56 aces, 127 digs) and Alma Cervantes (58 kills, 78 digs, 28 aces).

The next phase will start with a full season of junior Kamaile Hiapo along with sophomore Gabriele Green leading the team next season.

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

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