Mountain Pointe senior middle blocker Saxson Richardson is one of the players being counted on to keep the Pride's winning tradition going.

Larry Ward/file

Boys volleyball at Mountain Pointe is arguably one of the most successful programs in all of Ahwatukee Foothills sports and Desert Vista would be considered a good program against just about any other rival.

In other words, both teams can pretty much be penciled in for the postseason when the time comes in the middle of May.

The question is where this year's teams will fall in line with past seasons.

Mountain Pointe might not have the makeup - as of now - to make a run at its eighth state title, but coach Fred Mann will get this group ready as he always does.

The Pride went 23-7 last season and lost in the Class 5A Division I quarterfinals after winning it all the previous two seasons. They lost five seniors from that squad, including setter/outside hitter Daniel Coronado, and have a lot of mixing and matching to do in order to find a chemistry and rotation.

With some programs that can be done while taking a step back, but that doesn't happen at Mountain Pointe. The Pride has won six state titles since 1999 and seven overall, while finishing runner-up two other times.

"They welcome the challenge and expectations," Mann said. "Everyone knows what we are about. It doesn't add pressure, but it does set a standard."

There is plenty of talent returning to keep the string of region titles, after going undefeated in the East Valley a year ago, continuing on and set them up for the postseason.

But there has to be a lot of development between now and then.

"We can compete and make a push at the state tournament, but we have a lot of improving to do," said Mann, who has run the program since its inception in 1996. "I wish there was only one we need to work on. We have to improve our consistency, our serving was terrible (at a recent practice) and we need help with our passing and hitting."

It will eventually come together as senior outside hitter Jared Ahern, senior setter Conrad McCook, senior middle blocker Saxson Richardson and senior outside hitter/middle blocker Tylor Wimbish come together along with Chicago transfer Sergio Wade, a sophomore libero.

"We don't have a ton of depth," said Mann, whose team is in the Chandler Invitational this weekend. "I am looking forward to figuring out some of the unknown and discover who we are going to be this season."

Desert Vista is coming off a bounce back year that saw the Thunder advance to the state semifinals and finished 26-8 a year after going 10-13 and losing in the first round of state as a 15th seed.

The loss of first-team all-state middle blocker Michael Tilleman and first-team all-region setter Scott Gavin can't be understated, but coach Ryan Tolman liked the competition in preseason camp.

"We have a lot of new faces," he said. "We have some interesting battles for playing time going on. There will be some growing pains, and we need chemistry, but overall, we should be competitive."

The Thunder will count heavily on two four-year varsity players in Andrew Gott, a first-team all-Fiesta Region outside hitter, and Sean Coffinger, a second-team all-region outside hitter.

Desert Vista, which went undefeated in region action, will also need big seasons from seniors Michael Murphy, who is slated for either outside hitter or libero, and Nick Galvin, who could either be a middle blocker or opposite hitter.

However, the positions ended up being filled; Tolman believes they will be stinging the ball all year.

"We have hitters all over the gym," said Tolman, who led the team to a state title in 2007. "We are tough on the outside and we can play out of system and score from anywhere."

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