Tribune volleyball player of the year and All-Tribune team - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Tribune volleyball player of the year and All-Tribune team

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Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2006 7:32 am | Updated: 2:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The 2006 high school volleyball season didn’t begin to Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s Tara Mueller’s liking. It sure ended the way she wanted.

And even though her career at Desert Mountain is over with back-to-back titles as part of her resume, she enters next season looking to help her next team — Nebraska — repeat as champion.

A broken right hand this summer caused Mueller to miss playing for the U. S. Junior National team in Mexico in August. It also deprived her of many of the Wolves’ August and September high school matches, including two of three invitationals.

In mid-September Mueller was back and showed why she’s the type of player Nebraska gobbles up in playing the role of national power year-in, and year-out.

“It sucked that I missed so many games,” Mueller said. “I tried to get back as fast as I could. I missed a lot of matches against Ironwood, Gilbert and some of the really strong teams. I wanted to be out there bad. But we played well and were able to repeat. That was huge.”

In the Wolves’ bid for backto-back state titles, they faced Glendale Ironwood in the 5A Division II final. Without Mueller, Ironwood knocked off Desert Mountain twice rather handily. In the championship match Oct. 28 at Hamilton High School, Mueller was present. She notched 23 kills, added 18 digs, two blocks and two aces as the Wolves won the title in a four-set match.

“Having Tara injured early in the season was tough,” Desert Mountain coach Amanda Burbridge said. “For Tara I don’t think it even put a hitch in her step.....

“When she returned it was like the missing piece to our team was back. This team was really unique in that they were so close to each other. That if even one person wasn’t there we did not operate the same. With Tara back it took only a couple of matches to feel and see the change in the team.”

Mueller, who committed to Nebraska long before her senior season began and signed with the Huskers last month, is arguably the best player the state has produced this decade. It’s her all-around game that earned so much attention plus the intangibles coaches at major programs see from her.

Mueller flew to Omaha, Neb., last weekend to watch some of her future teammates and coaches take the national title, beating Stanford. She can’t wait for her chance to suit up in Lincoln.

“It was awesome watching them play and win it,” Mueller said. “You could tell how much they wanted to win.”

Burbridge certainly will feel the loss of Mueller and several other seniors next year. But they’ve left an indelible mark on the program.

“On the court Tara is fun, relaxed, competitive, confident, smart and calm,” Burbridge said. “She is a great role model for the younger girls coming up in the Desert Mountain program and the ones not here yet. That is what Tara has brought to Desert Mountain — a work ethic, drive and level of play that sets a standard for young girls to aspire to.

I keep saying it, and I will say it again. Nebraska is lucky to have her.”

Looking Back


Doubling their pleasure: Desert Mountain and Seton Catholic earned the right to defend their 5A-II and 3A championships, respectively. They followed through with repeats.

Three makes two: Desert Mountain, which started the season a bit slowly while standout Tara Mueller healed from injury, lost the first game of a four-set title match with once-beaten Glendale Ironwood. The Wolves then won three straight games to give coach Amanda Burbridge and a seniordominated lineup a going-away present with back-to-back state titles. Scores of the title match were 17-25, 25-11, 25-23 and 25-19. Mueller, Whitney Phillips, Kelsi Phillips and Lauren Kemp all played varsity together for four seasons.

Comeback kids: Seton won the 3A title in similar fashion. The Sentinels, led by outside hitter Julie Hershkowitz, dropped the first game to Kayenta Monument Valley. The next three games were all Seton in a 20-25, 25-15, 27-25 25-17 triumph.

Scottsdale presence: Desert Mountain wasn’t the only Scottsdale school to register postseason success. Saguaro and Chaparral ended up meeting in the 4A-I semifinals. Saguaro prevailed in five games — 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 24-26, 15-8. The Sabercats faced a more rested Glendale Cactus team in the final. Cactus won its semifinal match in three games. Saguaro and Cactus battled for five games and Saguaro finished runner-up, dropping the title match while thoroughly exhausted from a marathon day at Hamilton High School. In the 2A ranks, it was a Metro school again prevailing. Only this time it wasn’t Northwest Christian or Valley Christian. Scottsdale Christian outlasted topseeded Northwest in five games, winning its first crown in the sport.

5A-I local free-for-all: The 5A Division I final four was an all-local

Class 5A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Pos. Comment

Tara Mueller Desert Mtn. Sr. OH Nebraska-bound, 2-time Trib POY

Stephanie Nucci Gilbert Sr. S Fiesta Region POY headed to UCLA

Michelle Hein Corona del Sol Sr. OH Led Aztecs in digs, aces & kill pct.

Stephanie Snow Marcos Sr. MB Central MVP, headed to Arizona

Brooke Jackson Mtn. View Sr. OH Back row dynamo, Co-EVR POY

Whitney Phillips Desert Mtn. Sr. OH Led Wolves in kills and digs

Player of the Year: Tara Mueller, Desert Mountain

Coach of the Year: Amanda Burbridge, Desert Mountain - Guided Wolves to a second straight 5A-II championship

Class 5A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Pos. Comment

Lexi Sullivan Mtn. View Jr. OH Toros’ leader in kills, digs & aces

Sarah Clause Gilbert So. OH Led team in kills (590), digs (370)

Ashley Kastl Mtn. Pointe So. OH Top attacker for youthful Pride

Kristen Preach Xavier Sr. S Led young Gators to 5A-I final 4

Paije Pearson Chandler Jr. OH Potent offensive threat

Sarah-Johnson Kennedy Hamilton Sr. MB Avg. 3 kills, 1.2 blocks per game

Class 4A-2A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Pos. Comment

Robin Law Saguaro Sr. OH Led team in kills, aces and digs

Megan Toth Arcadia Sr. OH Co-POY in East Sky Region

Cat Highmark Chaparral Jr. OH Co-POY in Desert Sky again

Julie Hershkowitz Seton Sr. OH 3A South Region POY

Sarah Svorinic Notre Dame Jr. S Great passer, efficient server, hitter

Kelly Foley Cactus Shadows Sr. OH Led Falcons in kills and aces

Player of the Year: Cat Highmark, Chaparral

Coach of the Year: Shannan McClure, Saguaro - Sabercats made a surprising, near victorious run at 4A-I title

Class 4A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Pos. Comment

Tatum Jestila Notre Dame Sr. OH Led team in kills, 80 pct. attack

Sara Pages Cactus Shadows Sr. OH Falcons’ top attacker, 2.29 kills/g

Keri Hogan S. Christian Sr. OH Led team in kills, backup setter

Class 5A Honorable mention

Basha: Rachel Brock, MB, Sr.;

Chandler: Haylee Thompson, OH, Sr.;

Corona del Sol: Sara Bowden, OH-MB, Jr.; Maya Janousek, Lib, Sr.;

Desert Mountain: Kelsi Phillips, S, Sr.;

Desert Vista: Abby Simmons, S, Jr.;

Gilbert: Kayli Broadbent, MB, Sr.;

Highland: Mercedes Montford, MB, Sr.;

Horizon: Sarah Feil, MB-S, Sr.; Leah Nelson, OH, Sr.;

Mesa: Anjuli Hale, OH, Sr.; Vanessa Gaytan, RS, Sr.; Dawn O’Dell, DS, Sr.;

Mountain Pointe: Samantha Hodgkins, OPP, Jr.; Emily Lentz, S, Jr.;

Mountain View: Kylie Williams, MB, Sr.; Lacee Funk, MB-OH, Sr.; Paige Petty, S, Sr.;

Paradise Valley: Mary McNeil, S-OH, Sr.;

Red Mountain: Jacque Sunderhaus, OH, Sr.;

St. Mary’s: Andrea Wirth, S, Sr.; Dani Jones, MB, Sr.;

Xavier: Kelsey Bohman, MB, Jr.; Stephanie Preach, OH, Fr.

Class 4A-2A honorable mention

Apache Junction: Lauren Allan, M-OH, Sr.;

Arcadia: Kirstyn Hayes, Lib, Sr.; Tayler Levi, DS/RH, Sr.;

Cactus Shadows: Clare Gersh, MB, Sr.;

Chaparral: Jessica Waggoner, OH-L, Sr.; Britt Danneman, MB, Sr.;

Florence: Krysta Neal, MH, Sr., Rebecca Williams, S, Sr.;

Fountain Hills: Hannah Sadler, MB, Sr.;

Higley: Hayley Sanders, S, Jr.;

McClintock: Janette Castillo, OH, Sr.;

Notre Dame: Rebecca Slegers, MB, Jr.; Jessica Maxwell, MB, So.;

Phoenix Country Day: Sara Rosenzweig, OH, Sr.;

Scottsdale Christian: Julie Gould, MB, Sr.;

Seton: Megan Sobczyk, S, Sr.;

Valley Christian: Chanel Brown, OH, Fr.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]