When Vee Hiapo took over the Skyline High School girls’ volleyball program in 2017, she estimated it would take three years for the Coyotes to win their first championship.
Now entering her third season, Hiapo believes she has the leadership and overall talent to compete with the top programs in the state.
When going into any program, you have to have a sound base and structure,” Hiapo said. “The structure was there when I got here, and it has since just gotten stronger and stronger.
“It starts with our administration and booster club. Their love for the kids and for the sport, it gives us that structure to build each year.”
Skyline has seen steady improvement since Hiapo took over. She coached the team to a 17-17 record in her first season. Last year, she coached them to a 23-17 record, the program’s first winning record in its history.
Before she arrived, Skyline hadn’t won more than 14 games dating back to 2007. The Coyotes went winless in 2018 and had two consecutive 2-win seasons in 2010-11.
“This year we are more senior oriented, so the girls have another year of experience,” said Ryan Myers, one of Skyline’s assistant coaches. “The work they’ve put in this summer has really paid off and they’re really coming together as a team.”
Part of the Coyotes’ success last year was due in large part to Hiapo’s daughter, Kamaile, who had a team-high 847 kills and 49 aces.
Kamaile signed to play Division I volleyball at the University of Arizona, leaving an open door for the 2020 senior class to take over the team and become leaders.
“Coach Vee has been training us to be more aware of things and to be leaders for everybody,” Skyline senior middle hitter Sarah Funk said. “She wants us to be able to step up to the plate whenever we need to.”
Vee named Funk one of the captains this season along with fellow senior middle blocker Jasmyn Tate, who battled injury last season as a junior, and senior setter Gabrielle Green.
The three were an easy choice to be named captains of the team because of their love volleyball. But more importantly, they love their teammates.
“Those were the two main factors for making them factors,” Vee said. “It was an easy choice.”
The three are part of a senior class that includes three other girls, most of whom will see their roles expand this season. Skyline is without juniors this year, but the team is filled with a talented group of sophomores, led by Jasmyn Tate’s younger sister, Demya.
Skyline will open the season on Wednesday, Sept. 4 against district-rival Westwood before taking on Mountain Pointe the following day. Vee purposefully structured her team’s schedule to include some of the best teams in the state.
In her eyes, tough matches will bring out the best in her team. It will also give them the opportunity to prove they are talented enough to be considered among the best in 6A.
“To be one of the best in the state, you have to play the best in the state,” Vee said. “To get some of the top 10 teams in the state on our schedule, it will help take us to the level we want to be at with this program.”
Each member of Skyline’s team this season has taken it upon themselves to do what it takes to improve throughout the offseason.
Every member competes in club volleyball year-round to continuously improve their craft. They’ve all recognized that is what was needed to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a state title this season.
Should Skyline hoist the trophy at the end of the season, it would be the first championship for the school in its history. That thought alone has every member of the team eager to get the 2019 season started.
“We want to go all out on the court and make history,” said Jasmyn Tate. “It’s something we have to do in our last year.”
Mesa High School’s girls’ volleyball program found success last season behind senior captain Annie Hatch and her sister, Kate. The Hatch sisters, along with then-sophomore Ashtyn Michaels, combined for over 1,000 kills last season leading the Jackrabbits to a 30-13 record. Kate Hatch and Michaels return to lead Mesa this season.
Red Mountain struggled to find its footing last season behind a senior-heavy roster. Peyton Hathaway and Suzanne Craig return as the two highest junior scorers from last season as the Mountain Lions try to return to the 6A Conference tournament for the first time since 2016.
With just four seniors on last year’s girls’ volleyball team, Mountain View High School will have plenty of experience when it steps onto the floor this season. The Toros went 10-21 last season, missing the 6A Conference tournament.
Westwood High School’s girls’ volleyball program had its best season since 2009, finishing 21-13 and making it to the 6A Conference tournament. Despite falling in the first round to Perry, the Warriors did so with a team consisting entirely of juniors, sophomores and freshman.
Dobson High School girls’ volleyball won just seven games last season but will return most of its top scorers led by Bailey Kemper and Emma Boyle, who combined for 315 kills last season as juniors. Like several others in the Mesa district, the Mustangs return plenty of veteran players this season.