Mesa boys volleyball coach Tony Millanes remembers the first time he saw J.T. Hatch.
“When he first walked in, he was this little, skinny, typical freshman kid. I was like ‘Oh, this kid can’t be that good,’ ” Millanes said. “Then, all of the sudden, we start playing some volleyball, and he’s just phenomenal.”
Hatch certainly ended his career as a Jackrabbit in a phenomenal fashion. He was first in the state in kills with 533 and third in aces with 74, and he also tallied 231 digs.
His individual brilliance was not enough to avoid disappointing endings to his junior and senior seasons. The school’s volleyball squad lost to Highland in the state semifinals in 2013, and this year’s Jackrabbits team fell to Boulder Creek in the state championship game.
“We had a good run, but in the end, it’s not really about winning, I just look back at the time I spent with my team,” Hatch said. “After a couple weeks, it didn’t hurt that much anymore.”
Defeat is something Ahwatukee area teams know a little something about as Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista could not make it past the second round. It does not mean there wasn’t individual success, as Mountain Pointe’s Christian Cava earned All-Tribune Honorable Mention status.
While Hatch won’t overstate his accomplishments, Millanes can’t help but gush.
“He is fundamentally the most sound kid I’ve ever seen,” he said. “He honestly has no weakness.”
Hatch does have one deficiency that could cause problems at the collegiate level: an absence of elite height. His 6-foot-3 stature puts him well above the height of the average person, but it’s at least 3 inches shorter than the higher-level volleyball players.
What he lacks in stature, however, is compensated by a tireless work ethic and endless drive to improve.
“He’s a kid who is always taking pride in his game and always trying to improve. Even in the littlest facets, he’s just trying to do something to make himself at a higher level than everybody around him,” Millanes said.
Several schools pursued Hatch but none could match what the UCLA Bruins could offer.
“UCLA is by far the best school you can go to for volleyball,” he said. “It’s just a top program, top coaches, just an elite group of guys that are going to be there.”
Getting an athletic scholarship is impressive in and of itself, but Millanes sees Hatch going even further, much further.
“He’s got so many intangibles that other kids don’t have,” he said. “He has the hardest swing I’ve ever seen in volleyball, so he’s got things I think are going to help him immensely in college, and I honestly think he’s got a good shot to play, somewhere down the road, for our Olympic team.”
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2014 All-Tribune Boys Volleyball First Team
Name School Pos. Comment
J.T. Hatch Mesa OH Senior did it all, recording 74 aces, a state-best 533 kills, 231 digs while hitting .321.
Saige Gonsalves Hamilton L Tallied 374 digs while also getting it done on offense with 56 aces.
Zach Melcher Hamilton S Ranked second in the state with 1,184 assists and also tallied 72 total blocks.
Mark Olsen Mountain View MB His .439 hitting average was second in the state; also had 232 kills
Jacob Komenda Mesa OH Notched 69 total blocks while hitting .323 with 290 kills.
Jalen Cross Perry MH Versatile player was seventh in state with 309 kills, second with 118 total blocks and also had 45 aces
Volleyball Player of the Year: J.T. Hatch, Mesa
Coach of the Year: Anthony Millanes, Mesa. Under Millanes, the Jackrabbits have become perennial contenders.
2014 All-Tribune Boys Volleyball SECOND Team
Player School Pos. Comment
Luke Shill Mountain View OH Junior’s 329 kills were fourth-most in Arizona.
Jonathan Minetto Chandler L Senior had second-most digs in the state with 422.
Jayce Ashment Highland S He ranked behind state leader Melcher in assists with 977.
Kameron Casey Chandler MB The senior hit .438 with 261 kills.
Sean Chapman Highland OH Compiled a .283 hitting average and 258 kills.
Cameron Chatwin Desert Ridge MH His 70 aces was the fourth-best mark in the state.
Libero — Christian Cava, Mountain Pointe. Setter — Nate Schlappi, Mountain View; Middle Blocker — Darius Goudeau, Mesa. Outside Hitter — Jonah Orndorff, Chandler; Matthew Farabee, Westwood; Zach Bright, Dobson. Opposite Hitter — Bryce Gillen, Red Mountain; Middle Hitter — Christian Galish, Skyline.