After a state tournament-qualifying season, followed by three straight sweeps, it might be easy to give up and look to seasons ahead. Not Skyline. This is a team built on heart, hard-work, and youth for seasons to come.
The Coyotes are coming into this year with only one returning varsity player in captain Bekah O’Day, but not without the help of first-year varsity players and captains Alejandra Ramirez and Sadie Phillips.
Volleyball head coach Venese Hiapo believes that success is based on how leaders act and react, pointing to O’Day. Coach Hiapo believes the transition from last year to this year will build off Bekah O’Day’s varsity level experience.
“How [Bekah] dictates and sets the tone for everyone else is a huge factor because she is the only one [returning] out of the 30 some girls,” Hiapo said.
O’Day is entering the season as a third-year varsity player with a career eight kills and 35 blocks.
Skyline entered the season with O’Day, seven juniors, three sophomores, one freshman and a loss of six seniors from last year. With a younger team, it is sometimes hard to make a push right away, but Hiapo believes they’ll rise to the challenge.
When Hiapo took the job four years ago the girls had never made the State playoffs and after bringing them there last year she hopes to do it again.
“We have so many girls that are inexperienced and not as athletically volleyball talented, so they are going to be tried and tested,” Hiapo said.
The Coyotes are expecting a challenge this year, but it could not be more welcomed. After their second loss of the season, Hiapo said at practice the next day, “They actually are harder on themselves than I could ever be.”
Hiapo is not the only one excited to see a young team like this grow into its potential. All of these girls, except one, have been standing idly by and waiting for their varsity chance. Now that it’s time, they are looking to make the most of it.
“I’m really excited to see how we are at the end of the season and how much we’ve grown,” Phillips said.
Ramirez is also excited about seeing the growth of this team whether it be through an easy or tough schedule. The Coyotes are facing some familiar foes, like Red Mountain and Mesa, who have not suffered as great a player loss as Skyline has.
While inexperience might be the team’s biggest kryptonite, they don’t plan on stopping them from enjoying the season.
“I’m most excited for us coming together; not as much about wins, but that's also exciting,” Ramirez said.
The Coyotes last year ranked third in their region, 19th in their conference, and made it to the state tournament with seniors Gabrielle Green (1,143 assists), Jasmyn Tate (616 kills), and non-returning sophomore Demya Tate (402 kills). Although losses like these can be hard to bounce back from, Skyline is looking to take-off after their first win.
Skyline lost 0-3 to its first four competitors, but with a 3-0 home victory over the Dobson Mustangs on Thursday the team looks to continue the upward climb Tuesday at Desert Ridge.
“One of our main goals is to come together as a team, show up for each other, and just perform like we know we can,” Phillips said.
Skyline lost 0-3 to its first four competitors, but with a 3-0 victory over the Dobson Mustangs on Thursday the team looks to continue the upward climb Tuesday at Desert Ridge.
O’Sullivan is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Skyline High School.