The girls volleyball programs in Ahwatukee Foothills are rich with tradition and have shown the ability to compete with the very best the state has to offer.

Will 2010 be any different for Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista?

The coaches are cautiously optimistic entering the year, knowing some things have to fall into place and that the talent is there to be top contenders.

Mountain Pointe, which won the Class 5A state title in 2001 and were 5A Division I runners-up in 2007, has the go-to hitter in senior Erika Papadeas, who has started since her freshman, on the outside.

Papadeas had 332 kills last season with a 34 percent hitting percentage to help Mountain Pointe to a 26-9 record.

"Erika can play at the next level," Mountain Pointe coach Fred Mann said. "She sprained her ankle and missed some time with the club team so that hurt, but she can definitely play at the next level and we will count on her pretty heavily."

Helping her on the outside will be junior Brenna Wagner, who is making the switch from middle blocker to outside hitter, while senior Mikaela Novitsky is a versatile player that can be counted on as a hitter and setter.

The Pride lost in the first round of the Class 5A I state tournament and it is pretty clear that is not something that sits well with the program. They are used to going deep into the tournament.

Mann isn't sure if the team will play at that level early on, but believes the team has the talent to be ready in November.

"We hope we will be better over the course of the season," he said. "Right now, we are still figuring some things out. Hopefully, we come together, keep working to get better and be ready when the season becomes more difficult."

Mann said the lineup is undecided at setter and libero, but it doesn't make him uneasy.

"It's a question of parity," he said. "We have two or three girls on the same level of talent. It's a good competition and will assure us of some depth."

Desert Vista will have plenty of size to frustrate opponents with at the net as four players are at 6-foot or taller.

The Thunder, who have finished as state runners-up in 2004 and 2008, have an impressive duo in senior outside hitter McKella Williams and sophomore middle blocker Brooke Honeycutt.

The tandem move from the top of the food chain after being the third and fourth options last season when the Thunder went 39-6 before falling to eventual state runners-up Tempe Corona del Sol in the second round.

Coach Molly West said there are several young players that are expected to contribute this season, but it is hard to tell how much at this point.

One spot West doesn't have to worry about is libero as senior Renae Sniegowski returns and is a captain along with Williams.

"We have a lot of work to do to get on the same page," West said. "They all come from different (club) coaches so we have to work on fine tuning things and getting our system down. As long as they are disciplined and use self control it isn't a problem."

West is taking a similar wait-and-see approach as Mann when it comes to how good the team can be a few months from now.

"We will improve throughout the season and surprise teams that don't expect DV to show much this year," West said. "I hope we are the surprise dark horse."


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