Peoria boys volleyball program builds momentum

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Peoria’s Daniel Zemeida (#2) hits a ball over the net during practice Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Peoria High School in Peoria. (Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia)

In its first four years the Peoria High School volleyball program never managed more than three wins in a season.

Before the 2016 team took shape the Panthers imported a winning mentality and some tradition from volleyball’s golden state. Boys volleyball also became the final sport to split into multiple divisions and in Division II Peoria could finally play more schools its size.

The impact of Jonas and Jarom Wallace and a more manageable schedule was immediate. Peoria finished 10-6 in 2016, but just missed the state playoffs.

“Our program improved. My sophomore year I was on varsity and there were 13 players and 11 of them were seniors. That’s supposed to be an amazing team — all seniors. We had a bad record,” senior Daniel Zemeida said. The two biggest things that helped us get better was our new division so we’re playing teams our size and getting Jonas and Jarom. We have a very good hitter and setter now.”

This spring, the Panthers entered expecting to break through.

Steve Treguboff has been the program’s only head coach

“We had a couple of critical games that kept us from the playoffs and we feel like those are diffidently game we would like to get back. So, this has been a motivation for us to get better,” he said.

Early in the year the record is not better, but the results are. Peoria started 2-2 against a schedule that includes the teams that played for the Division II (now 5A) state title last year as well as undefeated 6A school Mountain Ridge.

Losses to the Mountain Lions and defending champion Chandler Seton Catholic are easier to take thanks to Peoria’s first win.

The Panthers knocked off Ironwood 3-1 to start the season. Even though, as Coach Treguboff pointed out, the Eagles lost a major chunk of their team, they remain the district kingpins.

“Playing the two top teams from last year early lets us know where we are. They’re definitely good teams but they’re beatable and we proved that with Ironwood,” Wallace said. “Now that our players have seen that we can compete with these top teams, I can definitely see their confidence has boosted.”

Peoria’s expectations are now more in line with the Wallace boys. Jonas Wallace shared knowledge with his new teammates.

Most of the Panthers have no club volleyball background. The Wallaces grew up in a volleyball hub and playoffs were the expectation at Jonas’ old high school

“I grew up in a family that predominantly played volleyball. Growing up in California and playing on the beach sparked my love for the game from an early age,” Wallace said.

Coach Treguboff said the brothers and Zemeida are the squad’s key trio.

Peoria’s Logan Hunt serves a ball over the net during practice Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Peoria High School in Peoria. (Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia)

“When the three of them are clicking we are fun to watch and the rest of our team feeds off of them.  Daniel started playing as a sophomore and really loved it and worked really hard.  The time he has put in has really paid off and he plays the game with a lot of passion,” Coach Treguboff said. “Jonas is a phenomenal volleyball player and athlete.  He has the most experience on the team and plays the game really well in all areas of the court. Jarom is a sophomore and has great hands and knows where to feed the ball to score.  The three of them really read each other well.”

The coach said early in the season, team weaknesses are playing consistently at a high level and not getting in a deficit.

To make the playoffs, the Panthers will need to place high in a reshaped region that loses district rivals Cactus and Ironwood and gains Northwest Christian. The Crusaders, Sunrise Mountain, Centennial and Kellis are also off to solid starts.

But recent success and quality play in losses has given this program a belief previously lacked.

“It’s never been done before so that would be awesome,” Zemeida said.

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