The girls volleyball season begins with a lot of a promise.
Now it is a matter of whether those promises are kept by the time the 2014 postseason rolls around in November.
Desert Vista lost in the second round of the Division I tournament a year ago, but bring back a load collegiate-bound talent, while Mountain Pointe also made it to the second round in its first year under Karen Gray.
Add the confidence Horizon Honors gained by knocking off No. 7 Parker in the postseason last year and there could be a special season of volleyball brewing.
The Thunder return five players who have already committed to play at the next level and have depth coming from the junior varsity and freshmen squads that went a combined 33-1 last season.
“This is probably the most athletic and talented group I’ve had at Desert Vista,” Thunder coach Molly West said. “The thing is we are uniquely deep at each position.”
The team’s core will come from senior middle blocker Maggie Bryne-Quinn (Colorado School of Mines), junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer (Florida), senior outside hitter Matisse Monty (Wingate), junior outside hitter Hailey Harward (undecided), senior setter Kirstyn Sperry (Bryant University) and senior opposite hitter Jenna Tunnell (Pepperdine).
Of course, it takes more than talent to win on the court. There has to be chemistry, trust and some luck involved, but it seems clear Desert Vista, which opens the season Sept. 3 at Mountain Ridge, believe all of the tangibles are lining up for a special 2014.
“It is important that we do not focus on individual players and stay committed to what the team needs to be successful,” West said. “That is key as there are a lot of talented players, but they have to work together in whatever their role will be.”
Mountain Pointe is coming off a 17-win season and the Pride have a chance to form its own identity in Gray’s second season.
“We are still a relatively young team, so confidence could be a bit of an issue,” said Gray, who said the strengths of the team will be blocking, hitting and tough serving. “Although our key players have more experience playing at higher level.”
It starts with senior middle hitter Kendall Gray, who broke the school record for blocks and was the most consistent hitter last year, and senior opposite hitter Whitley Doss, who will be a strong option from the right side.
They will be joined with junior setter Jessica Leo, sophomore outside hitter Chapin Gray and sophomore opposite hitter Heaven Harris.
“It’s been very positive,” Karen Gray said. “Despite losing good seniors we will have a stronger team this season.”
Horizon Honors went 19-12 last season before falling in the Division IV state quarterfinals to state runner-up Veritas Prep.
The Eagles return four of their top six hitters from last season, including junior Danielle Moran, who was second in kills and first in blocks.
Add in junior Lindsay Zumwalt (team-high 237 digs, second in aces), sophomore Joliana Sadler (team-high 265 assists, first in aces) and sophomore Alexa Smythe (89 kills) and Horizon Honors should be able to match last season’s success.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.