Boys volleyball: New format won’t deter competitiveness - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Boys volleyball: New format won’t deter competitiveness

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Posted: Saturday, March 3, 2012 4:00 pm | Updated: 1:37 pm, Tue Apr 17, 2012.

With less than 280 schools in Arizona — not all of which field athletic teams — many think there should be only one state champion for each sport.

It might not be right for all sports, but it definitely applies to some.

And boys volleyball is one of them.

There are only 60 teams total in Arizona so it is easy to understand why the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s (AIA) new format has the sport down to one division with three sections dividing it up.

When it is all said and done, there will be a true state champion.

The one hold is the fact that small schools like Seton Catholic (enrollment of 542) and Tucson Desert Christian (202 enrollment) are lumped in with schools that have more than 3,000 students.

The only other option is to drop the sport and let the players play at the club level.

One of the intriguing aspects of the move is the fact that it will bring together the powers of the East Valley against Tucson programs who have dominated the smaller division over the last six years.

Mesa Mountain View, Deer Valley, Mountain Pointe (twice), Desert Vista and Brophy have all won the big-school title since 2006, while Tucson Catalina (twice), Sahuaro and Catalina Foothills (three times) have brought home the crown in Division II.

Now they are all merged together, although, it is nothing new as there was only one division for the first 11 years the sport was recognized by the AIA leading up to 2006. The difference is when the sport started in 1995 almost all of the teams were centralized to the East Valley. The sport has grown a ton in Tucson over the years.

So where does it leave Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista?

Both programs are annual postseason participants and expect to remain there with the new format.

They are in Division I, Section III and bring back enough talent to continue their usual level of success.

The tournament field is expanding to 24 teams compared to 16 (although less than 32 total teams made it with the two divisions format) last year for Division I.

The top four via power points in each of the three sections make up 12 of the slots with the next 12 highest non-qualifying teams making up the rest of the field.

Last year the season ended in the quarterfinals for both squads as the Thunder got there as a 12 seed and the Pride as an eight seed.

The Thunder, which was 17-13 a year ago, will rely heavily on junior setter Kyle Pitman, while senior outside hitters Stoan McNeal and Marshall Rooney are expected to bring the thump to the offense.

The other player Thunder coach Ryan Tolman singled out is relatively new to the sport as senior libero Paul Rodgers has made huge strides in the last 12 months.

“I think we are going to be really competitive,” Tolman said. “With some strong showings late (last season) we hope to be right there in the end. We have some work to do, but have lots of potential.”

Mountain Pointe coach Fred Mann is a little less settled as he enters his 19th season.

“I am not sure what to expect yet,” Mann said. “I am sure I could tell you in a week or two after some real competition.”

The returning starters for Mountain Pointe, which went 15-2 in power point games last season, are outside hitter David Weaver, middle blocker Agastya Pandarinath and libero Sergio Wade.

Mann is excited about seeing what promising new players Dan Nyx, Sam Fuller, Tanner Colson and Austyn Skulkan can do to help the Pride keep its postseason running going.

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

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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