It was tough to move on from the end of the 2013 boys volleyball season for area teams for different reasons.
Mountain Pointe saw the only coach — Fred Mann — it had ever known fill out a lineup for the last time, while Desert Vista felt a little cheated as the No. 1 seed. The Thunder lost in the state semifinals to Gilbert, the fourth seed, on the Tigers’ home court.
So 2014 starts anew with the Thunder trying to get back to a championship level and the Pride breaking in a new a coach in Brian Steiner, who was a volunteer coach for the Pride along with several club organizations.
Steiner has some quality players to work with after the Pride went 12-12 last season and he expects serving and passing to be the team’s strengths.
It starts with three seniors — middle blocker Addison Henkel and twins Christian, a libero, and right side hitter Dominic Cava — as the team plays a difficult schedule including the annual Wolf Howl Invitational at Chandler this weekend.
Henkel brings some athleticism, Christian provides defense and passing, while Dominic is one of the top hitters and passers.
“We should make the playoffs,” Steiner said. “We have a tough schedule.”
Additional players expected to be counted on are senior outside hitter Viktor Pataki, junior setter Elisha Steiner and junior Keone Coronado.
Coach Steiner’s focus had been developing blocking and hitting in the preseason for the Pride, which opened the season on Tuesday, to match the level of passing and serving.
The Thunder had a great senior class that helped Desert Vista to a 17-0 in power ranking matches to earn the top seed.
There is plenty of talent back and they plan on making a similar run.
It starts with the trio of senior Sam Mathers, who has moved to outside hitter after playing libero previously, senior outside hitters Kevin Tate and Josh Case, who is healthy after struggling with injuries a year ago.
“We are going to be pretty athletic,” Thunder coach Ryan Tolman said. “We will be good defensively, too. We are going to miss the big hitters from last year and the size and strength they provided.”
Desert Vista, which heads to the La Jolla Beach City Invitational March 21-23, will have plenty of players looking to step into those roles.
The Thunder will count on junior middle blocker PJ Brown, senior middle blocker Austin Rabin, junior setter Britton West, and senior captain and setter Nick Hale.
“We will be competitive in every match,” Tolman said. “We will get better as the season progresses. I think we have enough talent this year to finish in the top eight and, hopefully, sneak into the top four. All 14 kids can play at a high level and contribute.
“This is my deepest team ever.”
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