It starts with a little Cheese along with some powerful Swanger.

Add some Oreo, crazy Jazz Hands, a little bit of Lion King and a big, tall dose of Nebraska and the Mountain Pointe girls volleyball team has found the right chemistry in the first half of the season.

"It is super good this year," Mikayle Holm said. "It is one of those things, we like each other on and off the court. We like doing everything together."

Including picking out nicknames for each player to put on the team's warm up shirts. It was a fun process in finding something that represents a little slice of the personality.

Some are self explanatory and others might require a little more background to understand their meaning.

Either way, it is all in good fun.

"We had fun with it," said senior co-captain Brenna Wagner, or aka Swagner. "It's part of what makes us work so well together - the chemistry and being able to have fun with each other."

The chemistry, along with some quality play, has helped the Pride win 13 of their first 17 matches heading into Tuesday night's match against Maricopa.

The high level of play started in the Westwood Tournament of Champions Sept. 9-10 when Mountain Pointe advanced to the Gold round out of pool play after going 5-2 overall. The Pride also beat Corona del Sol and Desert Vista in regular-season play.

"We beat some really solid teams and have played really well," Mountain Pointe coach Fred Mann said. "Our losses have come against some very good teams. We still have some work to do. I feel like we have to bring our best game and if we bring anything less then they will beat us."

The team has lost to Gilbert, Sunnyslope and Hamilton twice.

Holm, also known as Cheese, said the team is on the cusp of playing with the top-level teams, but needs to square some things away first.

"We are right there with them, but then we will have some mental mistakes," said Holm, who is the team's libero (defensive specialist). "If we clean those up we can play with anyone."

Mann said the team's success centers around receiving the ball at a high rate.

"We are scrappy defensively and have some good fundamentals," he said. "We are still discovering some things about ourselves, but it has been pretty good so far."

The offense has been helped by the presence of 6-foot Lexie Nelson, who moved in from Nebraska.

"She has been awesome," Mann said. "When kids transfer in you don't know what you are going to get, but she has meshed in really well."

Wagner, who is first on the team with 162 kills on an 18 percent kill rate, has been helped by having a third offensive presence with Nelson (90 kills) providing depth along with Kayla Meester (131 kills).

"We started to figure out who works well together," Wagner, a co-captain, said. "We are really glad to have her. She is a really good block on the right side and a good swing."

It has all come together with Holm (96 digs, 87 digs, 30 aces) and setters Justine Ackie (267 assists, 39 aces) and Chandler Hillman (205 assists, 63 digs, 20 assists) providing the dirty work, while Codi Jacobsen (55 kills) and Jasmyn Wimbish (47) bring some additional firepower.

"We have some tough teams left on the schedule," Mann said. "If we continue playing like we are, it should set us up with a pretty good seed."

The regular season ends with the annual Dig Pink game on Oct. 29 at home against Desert Vista, which will be looking to avenge getting swept at home.

"I am so excited for that game," Holm said. "They had a huge student section and we all pulled together."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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