Mountain View volleyball

Mountain View players get ready for a serve from Westwood, during a Conference 6A volleyball game, Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at Mountain View High School in Mesa Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

There is one topic that Clark Fleming and his team discuss constantly.

The drive for a state title is the goal for every program and Fleming — the head coach of the girls volleyball team at Mountain View High School — sees his players determined to reach this point. During the offseason, team members kept their skills intact by attending college volleyball camps and competing in travel tournaments.

Coming off a loss in the state semifinals to Perry High School, Mountain View is on the rise in its fourth year under Fleming, a former volleyball player at Mesa High School. Off to an 8-2 start, the Toros, who currently rank first in their region, have an end goal in mind. And they know the tactics that can help them raise a championship trophy.

“When we just all click, then it works the best,” senior outside hitter Aaliyah Austin said. “We have a lot of talent on our team, but we haven’t all played together because we lost a lot of our starters from last year. So we’ve just been working on trying to gel and connect, but the times that we have, it’s just been a lot of fun to play and from what I’ve heard, a lot of fun to watch.”

         Fleming says watching a new roster find ways to win is “a fun puzzle to put together every single season.” This season, various Mountain View players are stepping into increased roles or performing at new positions. Ahead of its match against Westwood, the squad will be missing five starters. Briley Decker, the reigning Region Player of the Year and a four-year setter on Varsity, has been out since the start of the season with an ankle injury

Yet Mountain View has a crucial asset on its roster, according to Fleming: players who have spent a long time around volleyball.

“It’s nice to be able to have people, even though they’re not on the court right now, they help the kids who are newer to our systems and to this experience and to our mentality,” Fleming said. “They help them a lot from the sidelines. It’ll be pretty interesting once we can get healthy and get all of our players back.”

As the Toros continue their charge towards the state tournament, Fleming does not want his team to be focused on how it is better than other opponents. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of the present and that every night Mountain View takes the court, it plays the best volleyball it can.

Junior setter Olivia Tukuafu is familiar with Fleming’s coaching style. Not only has she spent three years with the Toros, but she worked with her current head coach when she played club. Tukuafu credited Fleming with teaching his team the fundamentals of volleyball, as well as the importance of close bonds on the court.

Austin echoed Tukuafu’s sentiments and added that Fleming encourages the team “when we need to be lifted up,” while also “giving us the honest truth when we need to hear that.” She remembers that when he took the helm of the Mountain View program, Fleming spoke about establishing team culture and the type of team the Toros wanted to be and how their play would reinforce that.

The impact of this message is starting to show.

“It’s the culture and the girls that are on the team,” Tukuafu said in regards to how Mountain View’s 2021 squad is different from past years. “A lot of us have known each other since we were super young or have played for each other.”

The Toros’ victories have come against opponents such as Mesa, Pinnacle High School and Red Mountain High School. Yet what stands out to Fleming is one of his team’s losses. In the eight seasons that he has been at Mountain View as a coach on both the Boys and Girls teams, Fleming has never beaten Corona del Sol High School.

On Sept. 9, the squads matched up in Tempe and Corona del Sol walked out with a 3-1 victory. Despite the loss, Fleming was impressed with his squad’s mental resilience and competitiveness in every set. While the Toros are not set to face Corona del Sol for the rest of the regular season — as well as Queen Creek, who defeated them in the season opener — Mountain View is readying for its opportunity to prove itself in the postseason.

Austin is excited to see what the end of the season brings, especially if the team continues to grow and play consistent volleyball. Tukuafu said “our head’s always on state.”

Meanwhile, if the Toros play the “best volleyball we’re capable of playing,” Fleming believes his squad will be hard to beat.

“(You) never know what happens in the playoffs,” Fleming said. “Those are always fun, emotional matches, so I'm hoping we play good volleyball at the right time and we find ourselves in a good spot there at the end of the playoffs.”

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