Boys volleyball MP DV

Landon Fuller, a senior on the Desert Vista boys volleyball team, hopes to keep the legacy of success alive in his final season. The Thunder are the defending big-school state champions.

As if defending a state championship is not difficult enough, Desert Vista High boys’ volleyball has undergone a major makeover since last season, starting with the coach.

Scott Lucas takes over a team that lost its core of players. With a new coach and new players, Lucas is attempting to retain the culture of hard work that produces success.

A seven-player senior class has taken well to their new leader.

“I don’t like to make them have big heads, but I tell them they’re a team that has the opportunity to be one of the most impressive high school teams I’ve been around,” said Lucas, who succeeds Clay Webb.

Even though hit hard by graduation, the DV roster is far from bare. Senior captain Dapre Rogers was among last year’s leaders in kills. Rogers acknowledged that the Thunder seniors-to-be began feeling pressure to repeat as soon as they finished celebrating last season’s title.

“We’re supposed to be one of the better teams. It’s nerve-racking because we did win last year, so basically we have to win again or it’s a disappointment,” Rogers said.

The opener shocked the Thunder. Desert Vista was dominated in straight sets at rival Chandler High.

“(The loss) kind of opened our eyes that we’re a new team, even though we’ve got some of the same old pieces,” Lucas said.

The Thunder took it to heart. Through 22 games, they were 18-4, having beaten some of Arizona’s top teams and several quality squads from California.

The players have learned how to battle out of tough spots. On the verge of losing its first set to Corona del Sol (9-12), DV rallied to a 26-24 victory. Relieved, the Thunder appeared to play much looser. By the end of what became a 3-0 straight-sets match victory, the starters were dancing to the time-out music, slapping hands and celebrating great hits. Senior Jaiden Huynh said the team must keep that swagger.

“It’s always a competition for us, but mostly we’re just having fun enjoying each other’s company, especially us seniors in our last year,” Huynh said. “It’s just sort of a continuation of all the good times we’ve already had, and I know we’re all enjoying it.”

Pride boys volleyball rebuilding 

At 3-5 through eight games, the seniors at Mountain Pointe were off to the best start of their high school careers. Three wins equals the most by the Pride boys volleyball squad since 2015, which it went 15-16. Since then, Mountain Pointe is 6-53.

Scott Schutkowski is the fifth coach in six seasons at Mountain Pointe. He acknowledges that it is difficult for coaches to stay when the team consistently loses. However, he hopes to halt the skid and coach the Pride for seasons to come.

“I am planning on being here for the future,” Schutkowski said. “I want to see this program get to a place where these guys are proud to be part of Mountain Pointe volleyball, because these are great guys and they deserve that.”

The seniors take pride in rebuilding the program for their younger teammates.

“Some of these years have been pretty frustrating,” senior captain Ben Wilson said. “But, this season we’re playing better and just having more fun together. It’s like a totally new atmosphere around here.”

Freshman Matthew Luoma, aware of the dismal legacy, said that it would be “really cool to be part of getting this program back to winning.”

Schutkowski expects nothing less.

“I can’t say how many games we’ll win this year, but I know we’re going to be competitive and we’re going to make it as positive of an experience for these guys as we can,” he said.

Have an interesting story? Contact Eric Newman at enewman@timespublications.com and follow him on Twitter @enewmanwrites.

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