A family atmosphere is a concept many athletes hold near and dear. By the time a season comes to its conclusion, they will refer to their teammates as another family.
In the case of the Mountain Pointe girls volleyball team, their teammates and coaches literally are family.
Though the school’s official colors are maroon and gold, the Pride sideline has a touch of Gray with sisters Kendall, a senior, and Chapin, a sophomore, as well as mother and head coach Karen.
But the Grays aren’t the only family on the court. Jessica Leo, a junior this year, is joined by her freshman sister, Gabby. Their mom, Jen, coaches the team as well.
The JV squad also has a pair of sisters, separated by only a year. Megan and Sarah Van Horn — a sophomore and freshman, respectively — are both outside hitters.
The four sisters on the varsity team proved they belonged there last season. Being family wasn’t the only thing that contributed to their 17 wins.
Standing at 6-foot and 6-1, respectively, Kendall and Chapin were two of the most effective Division I hitters last season. Jessica moved into fifth place in Mountain Pointe history for assists.
Karen Gray, whose team opened up with a win over Red Mountain, couldn’t speak highly enough of the girls, heralding their attitudes and saying she expects each one of them to lead this year.
“Kendall was the most effective hitter on the team last year,” she said of her daughter who hit .333 with 498 swings and only 40 errors total. “Jessica is a smart setter with a great serve. She was voted to the second-team DI Section 2 in 2013.
“Chapin was starting outside this past club season for a 15s team that took second at the USAV Girls Junior National Championships this summer in 15 Open, which is the highest level of play.”
Gabby Leo is proving her worth this year. She already has nine assists and two aces in three sets played. Jessica said Gabby is really excited to have made the varsity squad and knows she will grow into her own as the season progresses.
However, the big difference for these girls is after the games and practices when they go home, as part of the team stays with them as they prepare to host Mesa Tuesday and travel to Hamilton on Wednesday.
“It’s difficult being with each other 24/7,” said Chapin Gray. “Especially with my mom as the coach, because she’s not just a coach telling me something, she’s my mom.”
The sophomore said she and her sister hadn’t played on the same team since they were 8 and 10 playing at the YMCA.
“Even though (my sister and I) fight all the time, playing for Mountain Pointe has brought us closer together,” she said. “For as much pressure as there is, I like it because I know that my mom and sister genuinely care. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Jessica Leo said that the Gray sisters could create a tension between themselves that she and Gabby don’t have.
“Kendall and Chapin are more competitive towards each other; I’m not saying that Gabby and I aren’t competitive, but we have more laid-back personalities,” the junior said.
Like the Grays, the Leos have only played on the same team once before, but they’ve both enjoyed representing Mountain Pointe.
“We don’t get to be on the court at the same time, but that’s good because when one of us is on the bench, we are able to be that much more supportive of each other,” Jessica said. “The same goes for my mom coaching us. She’s a good coach, but I feel better knowing she’s there, too.”
• Will Argeros is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.