Perry High School has long been home to one of the top girls’ volleyball programs in the state, making consistent appearances in the 6A tournament in its young history.
Fred Mann, the coach of the volleyball program, has largely been responsible for putting together a roster full of Division I capable athletes every year. Mann led the Pumas to a 32-4-1 record last season before losing in five sets to Corona del Sol in the semifinals.
The Pumas lost a plethora of talented seniors in last year’s graduating class. But like he is able to do every year, Mann has reloaded Perry’s roster this season, led by a pair of seniors in Tatum Stall and Sian Richardson that have plenty of experience playing at the varsity level.
“Tatum has been on varsity for three years and Sian has been on varsity for three years,” Mann said. “Whenever you have two girls with that much experience, you know they are going to be good leaders.
“We are hoping they will do really well for us.”
Stall and Richardson led the Pumas last year in kills with 278 and 264, respectively. They also were among the top-five on the program in aces with 68 combined.
The girls’ offensive production last season carried over to defense, as they each had more than 25 blocks to go along with a combined 532 digs.
Defense has been key for Perry throughout the offseason. Mann believes his team’s offense will once again be a strong point in 2019, but he wants to see improvement on the defensive side of the net.
“If we do a better job at blocking, then it helps the rest of the team overall,” Mann said. “We think our serving and passing is pretty good, our blocking and digging just needs to come along.”
Stall, Richardson and the rest of the senior class have helped lead the team to work on their defensive play. Most importantly, they’ve aimed to help the underclassmen on the team feel comfortable at the varsity level.
For many of them, it will be the first time they step foot on the court to face varsity competition. But it’s important for them to know the rest of their teammates have confidence in their ability to compete.
“We want to make them feel safe,” said Richardson, who committed to Cal State East Bay in July. “We want them to know they can come to us for anything. We all have each other’s backs.”
Perry recently took part in a four-team, round-robin scrimmage featuring Desert Vista, Casteel and Millennium.
The Pumas went undefeated in all three matches, but they didn’t compete up to their own standards. They recognize there is still room for improvement before they take on Mesa to open the season on Thursday, Sept. 5.
“I think we did pretty well,” said Stall, a Utah State commit. “We have a lot to work on, but I think we can get to where we want to be if we continue to work out butts off in practice.”
Highland High School’s girls’ volleyball team went 16-25 last season, making the postseason tournament after winning it’s play-in match. The Hawks went on to lose to Hamilton, but they return most of their top scorers this season in juniors Samia Bhakta, Kennedy Williams, Natalie Palmer and senior Anna Toolson.
Desert Ridge High School’s girls’ volleyball performed well throughout the season and earned a spot in the 6A tournament. The Jaguars were led by Amanda Jonovich with 375 kills, who returns this season as a senior. On defense, Ashlee Chino also returns for her senior season after posting 46 blocks in 2018.
Gilbert High School’s girls’ volleyball program finished 20-21 last season and made a trip to the 5A tournament. The Tigers lost their top scorer in Katana Montford, but return second-leading scorer Naia Stewart, who had 194 kills as a freshman.
A 26-17 record resulted in a trip to the quarterfinals for Campo Verde High School’s girls’ volleyball team. The Coyotes graduated their top two scorers but will have experience with Taylor Van Winkle returning to help lead the program.
Higley High School’s girls’ volleyball team struggled last season as it finished 10-17. The Knights were relatively young last season, however, meaning they have a plethora of veteran talent eager to improve in 2019.
The girls’ volleyball team at Williams Field struggled to find its footing last season, finishing 9-17. The Black Hawks graduated most of their team from last season and will rely on the seven returning players to lead a new group.
Led by coach Carlos Flys, Mesquite finished with a 24-19 record last season and made it to the 4A tournament. The Wildcats only had two seniors on its roster last season, so they will return virtually the entire team as they prepare for a run at the 4A title.
Gilbert Christian’s girls’ volleyball program finished .500 last season led by then-senior Savanna Cody and then-freshman Ellianna Wolthius. With Wolthius returning as a sophomore, Gilbert Christian will have some offensive firepower along with several other sophomores and juniors.
American Leadership Academy – Gilbert
The girls’ volleyball team at American Leadership Academy – Gilbert finished 16-20 in just its second season of play. Led by junior Carissa Hayes, who had a team-high 214 kills as a sophomore, the Eagles will look to advance to the 3A tournament now that the postseason ban from the AIA has been lifted.
Gilbert Classical Academy
Gilbert Classical Academy’s girls’ volleyball team finished a game under .500 at 9-10 last season. But without a single senior on the roster last year, the Spartans are in play to compete for a 2A title based on experience.
Leading Edge Academy – Gilbert
Leading Edge Academy will be without its top two scorers from last year’s girls’ volleyball team. But with a plethora of young talent behind them, the Spartans may find themselves in good shape in the 2A Conference. Carrie Hunzuk will look to build on her impressive sophomore campaign, in which she had 163 kills.
An 8-9 season for Arete Prep’s girls’ volleyball team helped them advance to the 1A Conference tournament. The Chargers will be without their top scorer from a year ago, as Risa Fish graduated. But with Faith Youkhana and Samantha Wietsma returning, Arete will have experienced seniors leading the way.