Local volleyball coaches Ryan Tolman and Fred Mann are beginning the year with different outlooks.
At Mountain Pointe, Mann sees the potential but believes it is going to be a work in progress to get to the level the Pride is accustomed to as one of the state’s top programs.
Tolman has seen the Thunder practice with the intensity and a level of play reserved for the middle of the season.
What type of season it translates into will play out over the next two months, but chances are it won’t end like 2012 when the two teams met in the first round of the state tournament.
The Thunder won that matchup and one more playoff game before falling to Brophy, the eventual state runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
The senior-laden Desert Vista squad, which opens the season this weekend at the Wolves Invitational, should only be better for it as the Thunder bring back the experience and talent to possibly make a deeper run into the postseason.
“It’s a ‘been there and done that’ situation,” Tolman said. “They understand what it takes. That playoff experience helps win games in tough situations because they can rely on it. Hopefully, we can play to our expectations.”
The Thunder is led by senior dual setters Kyle Pitman and Greg Moran. Senior middle blockers Ryan Adams and Brock Wilson patrol the net, while senior Garrett Halverson brings the power from the outside and senior Sam Mathers is the libero.
They have meshed early and the practices have been crisp for the Thunder, which will play in the Beach City Invitational March 22-24 in San Diego.
“When the guys have been around they know the drill and you can hit the ground running with a team like this,” Tolman said. “There has been a good intensity early on in practices. I can almost just stand back and watch. When you have a lot of new players it takes awhile to get into the system, but we don’t have to worry about it.”
Mountain Pointe’s development might take a little longer, but Mann sees it coming.
“We are solid, but not super good,” Mann said. “I’m hopeful that we will improve and get there once we start playing in tough matches.”
The Pride, which began the season on Wednesday at Hamilton, will be led by senior setter/opposite hitter Austyn Skulkan, senior middle blocker Sam Fuller, senior outside hitter Sergio Wade, who is switching from libero, outside hitter junior Christian Soerensen, and junior middle blocker Addison Henkel.
It’s a good core to build around and Mann knows they are willing to put in the time.
“I feel like we have the pieces in place,” Mann said. “If our setting improves we can go from being an average team to a good one.”
The Pride will play in two tournaments this year, including the Brophy Invitational, but opted out of the annual Wolves event.
“It takes a lot of energy out of you and we’ve lost our first (regular season) match following it three years in a row,” Mann said. “I think it was the right move for this team. We are going to be good, but it is going to take some time.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.