The Desert Vista High School boys volleyball team has a pair of high-level players.
Senior captain Nick Heeres and junior Landon Fuller are among the state leaders in “kills” – point-ending spikes, for those less familiar with the sport.
Coach Clay Webb said the ability of his two starting outside hitters has been crucial in vaulting the Thunder to a sizable lead atop the 6A Central standings and has put the team in contention for the 6A playoffs.
“When they’re playing a great game, there’s nobody that can really stop us,” he said. “They’re that core group of guys that we know if we get a good set for them, they’re either going to put the ball on the other team’s floor or make a good play for us.”
Fuller credited hard work and quality sets by his teammates for much of his success, adding that he loves having his coach’s confidence and that of his teammates.
“It’s always nice to be a go-to guy. It kind of gives the team a little stress relief when they know the ball’s coming to us, because they’re assuming it’s going to be a side-out. It’s nice to be that guy on the team,” he said.
Those same teammates benefit from the pair’s kills as well, as both Fuller and Heeres draw regular double, sometimes triple, blocks from opponents – freeing up single-block plays for the rest of the Thunder players.
With more space to work, and the knowledge that they have two studs to go to should things go poorly, the rest of the senior-laden roster can play freely and rack up several kills, blocks and impressive hits.
“Our kills allow us to run a lot of plays for the middles, plays for the opposites, plays for the back row, because we know teams are going to be expecting us to go to the outside. So, we can move it around and have the freedom to score points that way,” Heeres said.
Having blown out several teams already this season, sitting at the end of all-but-finished wins has become almost commonplace for Desert Vista’s starters, but Webb said:
“They’re competitors, and they want to go in, and I know they hate sitting. I chatted with Landon (Fuller) about it, and he told me that he’d rather be practicing than not playing in a match. They have a pretty big drive to want to continue to get better, which I love to see.”
Fuller said he would love to have more opportunities to climb even higher on the state leaderboard. But he acknowledged the importance of getting his hard-working teammates into the game when possible.
“We definitely want to get the second-string guys in because they’re great volleyball players too, and they deserve a chance to show everyone what they’ve got,” Fuller said.
With a talented roster playing nearly to its highest level, the team has a chance to finish the season undefeated in non-tournament matches, and Desert Vista hopes to carry that success into the playoffs.
With just over a month left in the season, and postseason play beginning in early May, Heeres said that there is no reason the Thunder cannot at least compete to be the team holding the state championship trophy at the end of his senior year.
“We know we have a lot of skill on this team,” he said. “We just have to be able to execute and play like we can to try and win it all.”