The remaking of the Mountain Pointe boys volleyball program wasn’t going to be easy.
The only coach the program had — Fred Mann — resigned and the roster is mostly made up of two groups of players from two separate club programs.
Brian Steiner knew coming together, along with adding a new offense, under those circumstances would be difficult so they decided to go without naming any captains for the season.
“We didn’t think there should be anyone singled out above everyone else,” said Steiner, who was a volunteer assistant before taking over the program. “We still have leaders, but this way we approach this first year with everyone having the same responsibilities and voice. There is no one above anyone else.
“Captains have their purpose, but we felt like this would be suited for us.”
It has led to a quality start to the season as the Pride entered Thursday’s home match against St. Mary’s with a 13-8 overall record and 4-2 mark in the power ranking matches.
Mountain Pointe, who lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, opened the year with a decent showing (5-4 record) at the always difficult Wolf Howl and followed it up with a fifth place finish at Falcon Invitational.
“We’re doing OK, but we know we can be better,” said senior Addison Henkel, who leads the team in kills (129) and is fourth in kill attempts (228). “We are trying to grow together. We are talking more and our defense has gotten better.”
Steiner has seen the growth he was hoping for 20 matches into the season, but like all coaches he can’t help but wonder about a few of the losses.
“We’ll beat a team easy in the first game, but then lose the next three,” he said. “I know we can play with those teams. For example against Highland (a 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20 loss) we really only had two players on and were right there with him. We battled the whole time.
“We’re not a team that can really rely on two hitters to take over. We have to have a complete team effort most nights and when we do we can play at a high level.”
The roster has a combination of players from the Aspire club program and the East Valley Juniors, but once they slip on the maroon, black and gold uniforms they’ve come together pretty well.
“It wasn’t a big chemistry thing,” said junior setter Elisha Steiner, Brian’s son. “It was more of adjusting to the new style of play. We are doing much better. The guys are showing more heart. It’s either fight or flight and we are fighting.”
Henkel has seen the difference as well, but still feels the team needs the keep the intensity level up regardless of who is on the other side of the net.
“It comes down to wanting to win,” Henkel said. “We seem to play down to a team’s level and we can’t do that. We have to play at a high level no matter who we are playing.”
The Pride offense — led by Dominic Cava (119 kills), Christian Soerensen (109), Viktor Pataki (77) and Henkel — has been solid all year, while the passing and defense (libero Christian Cava has 211 digs) will be the key to how far the team will go this season.
“Our passing is pretty good and our defense has done pretty well,” coach Steiner said. “If we can play a little more clean in those areas we are going to win most teams we face.”
The team, which is made up of seven seniors and five juniors, feels it can get there by the time the postseason comes around the second week of May.
“We will definitely be in the playoff picture, but we can be a darkhorse,” the younger Steiner said. “We can be that team upsetting everyone else. If we can keep that mentality we can do it.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.