The seniors’ chairs aren’t cold yet but the juniors on the Centennial girls volleyball team are already planning how they’ll run things next year.
With 10 seniors leaving after this season, there will be plenty of slack for next season’s seniors to pick up.
Among those leaving will be captains Maggie Matheson, Brooke Pottle and Collette Siroky, and filling their shoes will be Dana Gundrum, Emylee Schlink and Kelley Mallon. So, while the group will be missed, Coach Carly Bourland said she has enough reinforcements to keep the Coyotes competitive in the future.
”We have good, younger players at both the JV and freshman levels, so we're strong there,” Bourland said. “We also have a great group returning, and they are already looking at what they can do as seniors.”
This year’s seniors finished their undefeated run through the Desert West region Thursday with a 3-0 win (25-11, 25-16, 25-18) against third place Millennium (13-21, 7-5 in region). The win gave Centennial back-to-back region titles, and they haven't lost a region match since the 2007 season.
The Coyotes (20-6, 12-0) also had seven players named to the All-Region squad, including Pottle who was named region most valuable player. Three were named to the first team: senior Carly Eddington, Siroky and Gundrum; senior Paige Tonz made the second team and Matheson and Schlink earned All-Region honorable mention honors.
“I’m really happy for the girls,” Bourland said. “They worked hard and pushed, and I’m especially happy for Brooke (Pottle) and the three who made the first team.”
For Edington, who was named a starter this year after being a bench player for the past two seasons, the announcement came as a surprise.
”I’m so excited (to be named),” Edington said. “I didn’t know they were announcing (the awards) after the game and to hear my name was a surprise.”
For Pottle, being named region most valuable player highlighted everything she and her teammates have strived for this season.
”It was awesome to be named MVP. It’s such a good feeling to know all your hard work has gone toward something and be recognized for it.”
Pottle also was recognized as the Coyotes biggest threat, so the Tigers tried to neutralize her attack. She finished with eight kills.
With the defense focused on Pottle, Gundrum and Matheson were able to find Edington, Mallon and Tonz open up the middle or on the wings. In Game 1, Edington kicked off a 14-1 run with a kill attempt that Millennium freshman Zaylen Miller was able to dig but the front line couldn’t control the pass. Edington followed with two-straight service aces to give Centennial all the momentum it needed in Game 1.
Following a 7-2 Tiger run in Game 2, Bourland called timeout to give her squad a breather.
”Sometimes they just need a break to gather themselves,” Bourland said. “They fall into lulls and lose some intensity once in a while, but the seniors come back, do their thing and pull things together after the break.”
Matheson ended the Millennium run with a block. The Tigers received the senior’s block, but Alyssa Montoya sent her return long for a Coyote side out. A Centennial hitting violation briefly gave the ball back to the Tigers, but Matheson came through again, setting Tonz who tipped it over for the point. Gundrum rattled five straight serves with kills from Pottle and Edington to tie Game 2 at 11. Matheson closed the game out on serve with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a pair of aces and a Pottle kill to cap Game 2.
Game 3 proved tighter with Millennium tying things up at 14 on a Miller kill off a set from Jennifer Anderson. Gundrum forced a Coyote side out with a kill, and followed with a 7-0 run on serve to give Centennial a 21-14 lead. Edington sparked the rally with a kill off a short set from Gundrum, followed by junior Chelsea Traina’s first kill of the night.
And fittingly, after the Tigers mounted a modest rally while facing match point, Centennial worked the ball to Gundrum to set up Pottle for a kill down the right side to ice the Coyotes’ regular season.
Next up is the State Championship Tournament, starting at 7 p.m. Nov. 10, where Centennial could be seeded No. 2 or No. 3. While the players and coach all said the goal was to repeat as state champions, once they start the tournament it’s a game-by-game situation.
”We don’t look at (the state tournament) as though we have to reach a certain point or we’ll be disappointed.” Bourland said. “We don’t want to look that far ahead. We’ll take it one game at time and see what happens. You don’t know what’s going to happen game to game.”
One thing the Coyotes can count on is their experience and team chemistry, something Pottle pointed to as the team’s biggest strength.
”It’s been great playing with this group,” Pottle said. “We all give each other support whether we’re going into practice or games. On and off the court this team is really there for each other, and we couldn’t have accomplished the things we’ve done without that support.”