Power game

Mountain Pointe's Nura Muhammad is one of the the top hitters in a well-rounded Pride attack.

There was a sense before the season started that there was something different about the Mountain Pointe High School girls’ volleyball team.

Confidence. Maturity. Development.

The seemed ready to shed a reputation for beating the teams it was supposed to, and even grab a lead against top program, but never defeating true contenders.

Then the Pride opened the year with seven straight regular-season wins to open the season before a loss to Corona del Sol heading into last weekend’s Westwood Tournament of Champions.

It cemented the idea that Mountain Pointe, which was 13-3 on Monday, just might be ready to be included in the state contender conversation.

“We’ve always had the personnel, but we were a younger group and this year we are upperclassmen,” senior outside hitter Chapin Gray said. “I have a good feeling about this year.”

Mountain Pointe won five straight matches at the tournament at Westwood, including a 22-25, 25-15, 15-6 win over rival and two-time Division I state champion Desert Vista High.

It led qualification out of pool play to the championship bracket, but ended with a first-round loss to Hamilton High.

The Huskies are considered one of the state’s best this year and eventually lost to Corona in the finals.

The defeats by Corona and Hamilton showed there is work still to be done to close the gap, but quality wins over Horizon, Gilbert and the Thunder illustrate that the Pride will be a team that can make push past the first couple of rounds of the state tournament at the end of the season.

“It just feels different and it is a fun team,” Pride coach Karen Gray said. “I’ve taken a different attitude with them. I’m not on them as much. I took a lesson from (US women’s Olympic coach) Karch Kiraly this summer. I’m calm and they are responding.”

The team is getting a lot of contributors to the success as Gray, sophomore Avery Luoma, senior Nura Muhammad and sophomore Piper Manross do most of the damage offensively.

Four players have at least 20 aces, led by junior Gabby Leo (30 aces), four players do most of the blocking, five players have at least 85 digs while Leon had just six ball-handling errors in more than 1,110 attempts at setter with 464 assists.

“It feels like we are more together,” junior libero Anna Morse said. “There is a family feel to our team.”

A family that thus far has played well and stuck together.

“We work well together as a team,” said Chapin Gray, who had a team-best 176 kills entering this week. “There is no drama. When there is drama things breakdown so much faster. When you are together you can work through things instead of letting it get to you.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.

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