It is hard to find two more accomplished volleyball coaches than Molly West and Fred Mann.

And this girls volleyball season shouldn't do anything to hurt their reputations as they transition into the newly-established Division I, while playing out of Section II.

Desert Vista, headed by West, and Mountain Pointe, led by Mann, are annually top programs that regularly find themselves in the state semifinals and 30-win plateau.

It brings pressure for each new team, but it isn't something they fret about.

"We hope we are in that group," Mann said. "Our program is a good combination of talent and players who enjoy the game. We have really good athletes and some years are better than others, but we do OK."

The Pride has lost in the first round of state the last two seasons, but that is not the usual season for Mountain Pointe, which won state in 2001 and finished as state runners-up in 2007.

The roster always has talent and Mann does a good job of getting the team to improve throughout the year.

This year's squad has the go-to hitter needed to be successful in senior Brenna Wagner. She is in her fourth year of varsity action and is coming off a successful junior year that saw her connect for 213 kills on a 38.4 hitting percentage.

Wagner, who had 22 blocks, 54 aces and 93 digs last season, has a already established rapport with senior setter Justin Ackie.

Ackie had 368 assists, 29 aces and 101 digs and will serve as one of the team leaders.

"They really work well with each other," Mann said. "They should be a good combination."

Also in the mix are Jasmyn Wimbish, Kayla Meester and newcomer Lexi Nelson, who is a move-in from Nebraska and should play in the middle or right side.

Desert Vista, which has averaged 27 wins since 1997, could be in a better position to make a trip to the semifinals and beyond.

The Thunder made it that far last season while going 30-14 before losing to top-seeded and eventual champion Xavier.

Leading the way will be junior middle blocker Brooke Honeycutt, junior libero Sydney Schumacher, who West considers one of the best in the state, and junior setter Michelle Steagall.

Honeycutt, who has received interest from Pepperdine and other college programs, led the team with 392 kills on a 31.3 hitting percentage.

Schumacher had 649 digs (5.2 per game) last season and tied for a team best 52 aces, while Steagall had 595 assists, 223 digs and had 35 aces.

Senior outside hitter Annii'ya Robinson, junior outside hitter Peyton Shuckhart and sophomore middle blocker Vanessa Wesley give the Thunder a formidable attack.

"We have size and athletic ability," said West, who has a career record of 377-171. "We have the biggest middles in the state for all six rotations. Sydney will ensure our middle gets a lot of swings with her ball control."

The Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe programs have the level of success that Horizon Honors wants to achieve.

The Eagles, who are in Division IV, Section II, are coming off a 13-11 season after winning 39 matches combined the previous two years.

Horizon Honors is seeking the consistency of their Ahwatukee Foothills counterparts.

This year the season should be a quality year after losing only two seniors.

Some of the top players expected back this year are senior Hannah Laflin (96 kills), senior Valerie McPherran (277 digs) and senior Hannah Brown (446 assists).

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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