If Mountain Pointe plans to win its third consecutive state boys volleyball championship, the Pride will have to do it with two returning starters this season.
The Pride lost five veteran starters to graduation last year, including Player of the Year, Jared Morrison.
“We lost some good ones, but we have some young guns who are ready to work hard,” said Mountain Pointe coach Fred Mann, who has been the head of the program for all seven of the Pride’s state championship seasons.
Junior Jared Ahern, who played libero last season, and Daniel Coronado, an outside hitter, are expected to give the leadership among the five players who are returning.
But the Pride will have to wait for the 6-foot-1 Coronado as well as 6-5 Tylor Wimbish, who was moved up to the varsity toward the end of last season. Both also play on the Pride boys basketball team, which won the East Valley Region and are involved in the state 5A-I playoffs.
“We’re probably as thin as we’ve been for the last couple of years,” Mann said, “but we have a good group of guys who are ready to work. We have a tradition of working hard and that has helped us before. We have that expectation and if not, then it’s up to us as coaches to develop that culture.”
While they get their feet wet, the Pride may get a little bit of a break in the schedule. Mountain Pointe has moved from the Central Region to the newly aligned East Valley Region this year.
Instead of facing powerhouses such as rival Desert Vista, Phoenix Brophy, Tempe Corona del Sol and Basha, the Pride will see teams like Mesa Westwood, Gilbert Perry and Mesa Skyline.
“There are 10 teams we play, and we have to try and beat everyone in our region,” Mann said. “We have some powerhouses outside of our region, too, like Desert Vista, (Tucson) Salpointe, (Gilbert) Mesquite and (Phoenix) Goldwater.”
Being an underdog when the season begins is foreign to the Pride boys team.
“We’ve had teams in the past where we could rely on beating other teams,” Mann said. “But now it’s not a matter of arriving and playing. We’ll have to work harder, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to win every match.”
Mann will have an opportunity to see what he will be working with this year when the Pride open the season in the Chandler tournament this weekend.
“That’s what we need right now,” Mann said. “So it’s good that we have a tournament early.”