By Richard Smith
West Valley Preps
Two pioneers of high school girls volleyball in Arizona missed out on the playoffs last year as more schools jumped in.
Valley Vista and Shadow Ridge are happy to be back in the postseason this spring. They are in what should be the most competitive first round pairings this afternoon.
In particular, the Monsoon are glad to make their return.
Valley Vista was one of five schools playing in that first season of 2012. The program posted its best season in 2015 — pushing dominant Phoenix Xavier Prep in the semifinals before falling 3-2 — before having somewhat of a lost year in 2016.
“It means a lot. The kids have worked very hard to get back. Last year was very unfortunate in that the key players were seniors and had to work to save for college. I really think that had all of my players that were supposed to play played we would have won state. Think about it, the year before we lost to Xavier 3-2,” stated Valley Vista Coach David Chavez in an email.
The No. 7 seed Monsoon host No. 10 Goodyear Millennium at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Surprise Community Park. Millennium swept Valley Vista 5-0 on April 4.
But the Monsoon ended up with a higher seed, due in part to district rival Shadow Ridge’s upset of Millennium in March.
The Stallions were one spot short of the playoffs in 2016, and Coach Anthony Jones said that motivated this year’s team to get back to the playoffs.
Shadow Ridge is back and the No. 9 seed will face No. 8 O’Connor at 4:30 Wednesday at the Victory Lane Sports Complex in North Phoenix.
The Stallions started play in 2014 and joined the playoffs in 2015, winning a first round matchup. But getting to the postseason is a greater accomplishment this year, with more schools with better volleyball pedigrees now in the mix.
“I feel this season was way more rewarding to make it because of all the traditional volleyball powers that were playing and the number of schools was way up. When you can make the playoffs over teams like Hamilton, Desert Vista, and Notre Dame Prep (all teams that have won state titles in court the last three years) that just states how good our girls have been this season and the level of teams out there,” Coach Jones stated in an email.
Among this team’s highlights were Alexis Bauer and Kyley Pendgraft finishing second at the O’Connor invitational and starting the season 7-0 which was the best start in Shadow Ridge history.
Coach Chavez said some of the Monsoon’s best performances came in losses.
“If I had to choose I would say the play of my first team Anna (Myers, a sophomore) / Kyla (Chavez, a junior). The played Millennium and Coconino very tough and both of those schools first teams have signed to play D1 sand volleyball while my kids do not play sand much,” Coach Chavez stated.
He said the player that has made the most improvement is Tiyana Moore, who has proven to be a leader, hustler and has increased her play and vertical tremendously.
Coach Jones stated that all Stallions players have improved greatly throughout the season because 10 of the 14 players are either sophomores or freshmen which meant we had a big learning curve to get through.
“Lexi Richards and Samantha Garcia have stood out as a fantastic pair since they have yet to lose yet this season when they play together. Alexis Bauer and Kyley Pendgraft have also done well by finishing second at the O’Connor tournament and setting a school record for wins in a season by a pair,” Coach Jones stated.