The players change but the programs and coaches stay the same. Since 2000, the large-school class of Arizona volleyball has crowned eight champions.
Of the 16 teams that have made the finals, 13 of the finalists, and seven champions, have come from four schools - Phoenix Xavier, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Tempe Corona del Sol and Gilbert.
"Our expectations are always high," said Gilbert coach Joe Hesse, who has led his team for 12 seasons.
Longevity and continuity have been the keys to the programs.
Hesse, Xavier's Tim McHale and Mountain Pointe's Fred Mann have all been at their school for more than a decade each.
During that time frame, Xavier has won four titles and has been runner-up once. Gilbert has two titles and a runner-up finish. Mountain Pointe was the 2001 champion and last year's runner-up. Corona del Sol has been second three times.
McHale believes continuity has been the key, noting his 18 years with the program. He has been the head coach for eight seasons and was the junior varsity coach for 10 years.
"One of the constants is there's not a lot of change. People want to see history continue and not re-invent the wheel," McHale said. "Each program goes about it differently, but the kids buy into it and parents buy into it."
In other words, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
While Corona's Ben Maxfield is just in his third season as head coach, he spent four as a junior-varsity coach. Former head coach Jamie Rohme is now coaching in middle school, aiding the program's feeder system.
"One (similarity in the programs) is stability and having the same coaches in the program and all have great club teams," Maxfield said. "They all have tradition and expect to do well."
Two of the three other large-school finalists have also come from the East Valley. Phoenix Desert Vista was runner-up in 2004 and Scottsdale Horizon, now in 5A-II, was second in 2000.
By the way, those programs have something in common with the four regulars.
Valorie McKenzie has been coaching at Horizon for nearly 30 years. Molly West is the only coach Desert Vista has ever had. She's entering her 13th year.
"It's been pretty much the same programs and the same coaches," said West.
Same ol', same ol'
Gilbert or Xavier have appeared in the championship game in the state's largest classification six out of the last eight years.
Year Champion Runner-up
*2007 Xavier Mountain Pointe
*2006 Gilbert Corona del Sol
*2005 Xavier Corona del Sol
2004 Mountain Ridge Desert Vista
2003 Gilbert Xavier
2002 Xavier Gilbert
2001 Mountain Pointe Corona del Sol
2000 Xavier Horizon
* 5A-I champ after AIA went to two 5A divisions in 2005
DID YOU KNOW?
Family affair: Tempe Corona del Sol has five sets of siblings in their program this year.
Milestone alert: Horizon coach Valorie McKenzie is only five wins shy of 600 for her career.
All-around student-athlete: Mesa Westwood's Samantha Collins was the 2006 state long jump champ and is the No.1-ranked heptathlete in her age group, as well as, being ranked in the top 10 in her senior class.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Phoenix Xavier: Coach Tim McHale says he’s looking for the right combination. Four returning starters, including junior phenom Stephanie Preach, is a good place to start for the defending state champions.
Gilbert: Expectations are high every year for the 2006 champs. This year is no different.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe: Last year’s state runner-up was the top seed. They have four starters back, including ASU-bound Ashley Kastl, who is vying for the program’s second crown.
Tempe Corona del Sol: Experience could take the Aztecs a long way.
Phoenix Desert Vista: Senior setter Anna Gott and junior hitter Betsi Metter lead the way.
Scottsdale Desert Mountain: Young, but still a contender in second year at 5A-I.
Scottsdale Horizon: Team mirrors 29-year coach Valorie McKenzie: experienced and consistent.
Scottsdale Chaparral: Can they make it four titles in five years?
Scottsdale Saguaro: Plenty of talent return from state quarterfinal team.
Scottsdale Notre Dame: Unbeaten a year ago, the Saints will be tested early at Seton.
Chandler Seton Catholic: Quality freshmen and transfers join four returning starters.
Phoenix Arcadia: Experienced setter and hitters could take this team far.
Chandler Valley Christian: You can always count on the Trojans to be in the mix.
Players to watch
Sarah Clause (pictured): Gilbert junior outside hitter would like to lead her team to a title before heading off to Long Beach State.
Stephanie Preach: Xavier junior setter was a PrepVolleyball.com All-American as a sophomore.
Ashley Kastl: Mountain Pointe outside hitter bound for ASU, averaged 3.5 kills as a junior and led the Pride in digs.
Aubrielle Funk: Will be setter at University of Oregon. Will do a little of everything for Tempe Marcos de Niza.
Melissa Toth: Arcadia standout averaged 6.5 kills per game last season.
Chanel Brown: Valley Christian junior outside hitter getting looks from a number of Division I schools.