Softball hasn't been a strong suit for Ahwatukee Foothills schools as far as the postseason has been concerned in recent seasons.
Both programs haven't made the postseason in the same year since 2006 and even then it was as the 15th and 16th seeds with quick exits.
Whether that changes won't be known for a couple of months, but both programs enter the year with high hopes.
Mountain Pointe, which won a state title in 1999, has been a regular postseason participant but hasn't made an extended run in recent years.
The Pride went 14-18 last season but lost Arielle Cano (.342, 3 HR, 17 RBIs), Holly Phillips (.423, 10 RBIs) and Sienna Martinez (.382, 18 RBIs) to graduation, leaving a void in the middle of the lineup.
"We lost a few key power hitters," Pride coach Mel Wendell said. "These are areas that our current players will need to step up and fill these roles."
Mountain Pointe will count on junior shortstop/outfielder Nyla Wambold (.329. 10 SB) to start the offense as the leadoff hitter while outfielder Tegan Wambold should make an impact as a freshman.
Other underclassmen who had at least 50 plate appearances last season are sophomore Kayleigh Hooten, junior Keeley Batt, junior Ciara Gonzales and senior Cecily Abbadessa.
The pitching duties will fall mainly on Gonzales, who was the top starter last season as she went 7-10 with two saves and 3.92 ERA. She had 99 strikeouts and 50 walks in 123 innings.
"She has been working very hard to make this a successful weekend," Wendell said.
The coach had a good feeling about the makeup of the squad entering the season, which began last Wednesday.
"They have shown hard work and dedication," he said. "This year's team is off to a great start. We are working extremely hard at being better than last year.
"We have a lot of athletes that have potential to be great. Our goal this year is to tap into this potential and have a very successful year."
Desert Vista is coming off a difficult year, going 6-24, so this season can only be better and lay the ground work for years to come as the Thunder have only one senior in Michelle Stauffer.
"We will compete much better this year than in the past," said coach Chris Crowl, who is 39-70 in his five seasons. "We will have some ups and downs, but I believe that we will build on this and become much stronger as the year moves along."
The experience in the infield and pitching should be the team's strengths as junior Emily Panther (.338, 12 runs, 13 RBIs), sophomore catcher Alyssa Cerminara (.257) and Stauffer (.292, 15 RBIs) provide experience and leadership.
"We have a strong nucleus of players returning in the infield," Crowl said. "(Cerminara) will provide leadership and contribute greatly to our offense."
Crowl is intrigued by the young talent making the jump to varsity ball, including sophomore pitcher/outfielder Danielle Block, freshman pitcher/infielder Shea Koepnick and freshman Michaela Duarte.
Block started the year on junior varsity last season but eventually made an impact at the varsity level, batting .350 in 20 at bats and going 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA on the mound.
"We have some young and talented pitchers," Crowl said. "Panther has a tremendous work ethic, and I am expecting Danielle to continue to mature and develop into a top pitcher in the region and state."
Horizon Honors is looking to build off last season's success as the Eagles went 10-8 and made the Class 2A state playoffs before being knocked off in the second round by top-seeded and state runner-up Benson.
Last season's roster had only three seniors, including captain Kayte Volden, so Horizon Honors should be ready to take the next step under coach Dina Samora.