Horizon Honors takes the quality-over-quantity philosophy to heart when it comes to fall sports.
The K-12 school fields only three teams in two sports this time of the year, but the Eagles fare pretty well in girls volleyball and cross country.
The girls volleyball team made the Class 2A state semifinals last season, while the boys cross country finished fifth in the state. The girls cross country only sent two runners to state last season, but one placed third overall and the other cracked the top 50.
Expect more of the same this year.
The volleyball team is off to a 3-1 start through Thursday while still finding its way after losing a good portion of last year's rotation to graduation.
Only three starters return, but Horizon has similar plans after losing to eventual state champion Chandler Valley Christian in the semis.
"That showed us what we can do," senior middle blocker Jessica Laflin said. "We gave them their toughest match. We are working to get back to that level. We need to work on some things, get our chemistry right and we can do it."
The heart of the team runs through junior libero Valerie McPherran, sophomore outside hitter Casey Trier, junior setter Hannah Brown, junior middle blocker Hannah Laflin and her sister, Jessica.
"We are excited about this team and the young players that are going to play a big part in it," Horizon coach Livia Peace said. "Last year's team played with intensity that we don't have yet this year. We started to show a little bit of that (in Thursday's three-game win over Fountain Hills) so that is good.
"We showed some backbone in that third game (after coming back to win after a 10-5 deficit)."
The cross country teams had their first meet of the year over the weekend and coach Lura Beets believes it could be a special season.
The boys team returns six of its seven runners from the team that finished fifth last season.
"Everyone should be a little bit stronger and finish that much higher," she said. "We can crack the top three if everything falls into place."
Cross country has a new format that has Horizon running in Division IV, which is essentially the same as the Class 1A/2A meet that the Eagles competed in before.
It means Horizon knows what the top teams are - Keams Canyon Hopi and Many Farms - and what needs to be done to reach that level.
The top boys are senior Brian Homan, who finished 19th at state last season, senior Brian Fullman (22nd at state) with sophomore Matt Richardson, junior Galen Geislinger expected to be major contributors. Newcomer Adam New, senior Matt Schian and junior Brendan Berry give the team depth.
"We are beginning strong," Beets said. "As long as we motivate and stay positive we can have a great season."
The girls team had just two runners last season in senior Monika Kawski, who is nursing a knee injury, and freshman Shaila Homan, who finished third and 48th, respectively at the state meet.
Horizon enters the season with the seven runners it takes to qualify for team standings and Beets is interested in seeing what some of the young runners can do.
"Some are new, but they have Monika leading them," she said. "It will be great experience for them and we can be pretty good by the end of the year."