Inconsistent Valley Vista volleyball dispatches Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon volleyball team reacts after winning a point against Valley Vista on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]
Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

From afar, sweeping local rival Willow Canyon on Thursday seemed like a good night’s work for Valley Vista volleyball.

Beyond the surface, however, the 25-15, 25-13, 25-20 Monsoon victory against a smaller, overmatched school brought on more attention to this team’s missing ingredient — consistency.

Valley Vista (9-2 overall, 3-1 regular season) started a bit sloppy and led game one 17-14 before rattling off eight of nine points.The home team dominated the second game, but fell behind Willow Canyon 16-9 in game three before kicking back into gear.

“Even when we’re making rotations, we need to keep up the level of play throughout the game,” Chavez said. “When we played Horizon, we were up 2-0 and then we lost some gas in the tank. When I called time out in game three I said, ‘We’re not going to do this again. We’re not going to go to game four.'”

Led by first-year coach Matt Overfelt, Willow Canyon (6-7, 3-2) may have the opposite problem. The Wildcats improved their skill level as juniors Abigail Cullotta, Aryah McCoy and Cassidy McCoy and seniors Christina Duelka and Kate Hansen have gained experience.

Now the goal is for this group to believe in their abilities — to realize they belong.

“Our challenge as a team is keeping at a high level mentally and playing consistent from the beginning to the end of a set,” Overfelt said. “Physically we’re talented.”

The Monsoon blew out to an 11-4 lead early before two kills by Duelka helped cut the lead to 12-9. Valley Vista’s strike force of seniors Kyla Chavez (three kills) and Bre Allen (two kills) closed out the first game.

The Monsoon broke out to a 7-0 lead and did not look back in game two. Allen finished the game with four kills and an ace an Chavez added two kills.

Once again, this duo is one of the most lethal attacking combos in the state. Coach Chavez said they are even better and more unpredictable this year thanks to the work middle blockers Tirana Moore (a senior) and Christina Van Lith (a junior) do moving players around the court

“The biggest impact that people didn’t see are my two middles, Christian Van Lith and Tiyana Moore. They’re loud. Christina is very tall. Tiyana runs slides and is very boisterous. She runs slides and takes defense with her. When she does that more she opens up the door for Kyla and Bree. They have helped out this team so much,” Chavez said.

Down two games the Wildcats played free to start game three. Junior Karysa Rackley served two straight aces for an 8-5 Willow Canyon lead.

A pair of kills by junior Kaylee Kriwer and a block and kill by Hansen helped build the visitor’s seven-point advantage.

“I think we played really good defense. We dug a lot of their hits. We blocked and touched a lot of their attack. I’m pleased with that effort defensively,” Overfelt said. “We played with good energy, even though we may not have executed as well as we wanted to.”

After a Monsoon timeout, the favorite played up to its capabilities and the underdog was overwhelmed by the chance to win a game.

Closing the match with a 16-4 spurt, Valley Vista fed Chavez on the outside for five more kills, including the match winner. Junior setter Anna Myers added a pair of aces while serving on six straight Monsoon points — to go with her 23 assists on the night.

This match started Valley Vista’s tour of district rivals, with Dysart and Shadow Ridge coming up next week. On Sept. 19 the Monsoon host a solid Mesa team for their final non-region match.

That will be one of Valley Vista’s final challenges in its odd, front-loaded schedule. Four Southwest Region rivals should provide little resistance.

But Goodyear Millennium swept the Monsoon in two region games last year and has started 2017 playing like one of the top teams in the state. Valley Vista will be the underdog in these matches Oct. 5 and 24.

Valley Vista’s Anna Myers (#3) hits the ball over the net against Willow Canyon on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]
Score by game

Willow Canyon –     15  13  20  – 0
Valley Vista      –     25  25  25  – 3

Top performers

WC – Senior Christina Duelka led the team with 5 kills. Junior Aryah McCoy had a match-high 14 digs.

VV – Senior Kyla Chavez led all players with 11 kills. Senior Bre Allen had 10 kills and served 5 aces.

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