Chaparral women’s volleyball team is seeking its second league title in three years.
It’s a difficult task for a team that lost nine seniors last season including Cassie Seminoff and Kate Fitzgerald who were the team leaders in kills last season. Even though Chaparral lost many key players, they are excited to show off their young, talented group of girls who are hungry to win a league championship.
“We are extremely young but extremely talented,” Speer said. “We also have five transfers this year, two that will impact the team right away and that's exciting to me. We will surprise a lot of people.”
Senior transfer Cassie Brown will surely be one of the most exciting players for Chaparral this season and is committed to play volleyball at New York University next year.
It’s the intangible qualities like leadership, heart and grit, according to Coach Speer that could be the difference for them.
“The biggest thing for these girls is to understand that winning isn't easy at this level, and my challenge with this team is that they are super talented but I don't know if they are willing to get in a fight or get in a war with the other girls in our league,” Speer said.
Amid a global pandemic, Chaparral’s volleyball season has been shortened from its usual 37 games to a mere 17. Senior setter Taylor Peters says that this limits practices and time to prepare for games so staying locked in will be tougher than in past seasons.
“We have lost a lot of time during our season and that limits time in practice and limits our preparation,” said senior setter Taylor Peters.
Wearing masks is mandatory for games this season, but the biggest change is the absence of fans, according to senior defensive specialist Raegan Peters, Taylor Peters twin sister.
“I think it's really hard to play without fans because they definitely help us get excited and help keep us pumped up during our games,” Raegan said.
A shortened season limits opportunity to move players around to different spots and reduces the amount of time it can take to make early-season adjustments.
“We won't get a chance to experience things and make those rookie mistakes because every game is a power point game and counts in the rankings,” Speer said.
Despite his team’s lack of experience, Speer is optimistic about how his team will perform and has been happy with the dedication that has been put forth by this young squad.
“I would say our team is very hardworking and dedicated,” Raegan said.
Each year brings new challenges and strengths, height being among the latter this year.
“This year, I have spent more time on technical stuff like footwork and blocking,” Speer said. “This is the tallest team I have had in my three years being here, but some of the girls lack aggressiveness when it comes to blocking. If we can use our size the right way, we can go a long way.’
Sophomore Clare Palen is looking to repeat her success as one of the league's best players last season and will be vital to Chaparral’s success.
“She is super explosive, super-fast left to right, can elevate really well, and I expect her to have another great season,” Speer said.
Senior Captain Taylor Peters also gave high praise for the sophomore star, saying she was one of the best hitters as a freshman and believes she has a future in volleyball beyond high school.
Speer also expects junior Hailey Brisbane to have a breakout season after seeing her steady improvement throughout her time at Chaparral.
“If she can score points like she does in club season and be consistent and be a good block on the right side, she can have a high school breakout season that will surely turn heads around the league,” he said.
Chaparral is currently 2-4 through the first six matches of the season. Despite the slow start, Chaparral is ready to prove to the league that this young team is not just built for the future, but ready to compete and win championships now.
Michael Bosque is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Chaparral High School.