The girls volleyball season is always full of potential.
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe have been known to push toward a state title, making the state championship game as recently as 2008 and 2007, respectively.
Whether or not 2013 will be one of those years is hard to tell, but per usual there is potential.
The Thunder brings back plenty of talent from last season’s 31-13 team.
Desert Vista, which opens the season Sept. 4 at home against Mountain Ridge, has size and athletic ability with good experience in key spots such as middle blocker, libero and outside hitter.
“Just putting it all together will be our challenge,” said coach Molly West, who has a career mark of 433-198. “We finished fifth last year and we will be a contender again this year. We are looking to make it to the top four and if that happens, then it’s anyone’s game.”
It starts with West Point commit Vanessa Wesley, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, but she will have plenty of help.
Junior libero Lexi Glover, junior outside hitter Maggie Byrne-Quinn and sophomore outside hitter Hailey Harward will instrumental as well, while junior setter Jenna Tunnell and middle blocker/opposite hitter Rachael Kramer should have an impact, too.
Mountain Pointe, which opens the season Sept. 3 at Red Mountain, is more of an unknown as the program transitions from program architect Fred Mann to Karen Gray.
The talent is there and fresh eyes could put the Pride in prime position to make a playoff push.
“I am really excited for the season,” Gray said. “We are young, but we have a positive outlook. We are going to roll up our sleeves and work hard this season on both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
“Hamilton, Gilbert and DV are all in our section so it’s going to be tough, but this team has the physical ability to have a good season. We are going to fight for a playoff spot.”
To get there the top players need to take a leap from last season’s 19-12 squad, including a loss to Hamilton in the first round of the playoffs.
Christine Winkelman, a 5-11 senior outside hitter, bring maturity and power to the outside, while junior Kendall Gray should be one of the top middle hitters in the state.
Sophomore setter Jessica Leo will take control of the offense after finishing second in assists last year. Adding size and athleticism is 6-2 middle hitter Kayla Lupoe, while Jessica Fong, Whitley Doss and Lauren Luecht will also have a spot on the rotation.
“We have good all-around players and we are an athletic team,” she said. “They are motivated and they have good chemistry, but we are young.”
Horizon Honors, which opens the year Sept. 3 at San Tan Foothills, is coming off a 12-12 season with some of the Eagles’ top players still in the mix.
Senior Blaykleigh Smythe led the team in digs last year, while senior Madeline Moran was second.
It gives Horizon Honors some firepower with returning setter Diana Carlson runs the offense and provides leadership.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.