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The Sequoia Pathway volleyball team had a perfect regular season and reached the CAA semifinals. Top row: Coach Holley, Emma Berg, Alexis Powell, Volunteer Assistant Jodi Kalulu; middle row: Cydnee Byrd, Lynniece Andrews, Lexi Trimmer, Mikayla Gallon and Lani Kalulu; bottom row: Taylor Yon, Mercedes Garcia, Jasmin Nafarrate and Jameshia Hughes.


Last night the Sequoia Pathway volleyball team experienced its first loss of the season against the Basis Peoria Scorpions in a hard-fought four-setter.  The 1-3 defeat means the Pumas will not advance to the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II State Championship.

“The girls held on to their nerves for too long,” coach Lashieka Holley said of the game.

However, Holley was more upbeat about the season past as a whole and the one to come.

“The girls ended the season 16-1,” Holley said. “They really came together and had an unprecedented season, which sets us up for next year. They will be ready for those close games.”

Two juniors are slated to return next season, as will a number of freshmen and sophomores, preserving a strong core. Despite the loss, the camaraderie developed by the tight-knit squad was itself a form of victory.

“We worked really hard as soon as we came in from tryouts,” said Lynniece Andrews, the team’s court captain. “We weren’t as bonded back then, and that was a big piece, because we had different components coming in. We all meshed together and we’re sisters now. We work hard everyday and every game.”

Another Puma captain, Jasmin Nafarrate, echoed this sentiment.

“We have our ups and downs, of course, every team does, but we really did bond together,” said Nafarrate, who described her own role on the team as the “emotional support captain.”

“I’m like a big sister. If they need any advice off the court, anything going on with their families, boy troubles, I’m always there for them. I’m just a shoulder to lean on.”

Holley had hoped the Pumas’ extra practices and long hours would have end in the goal they wrote down shortly after tryouts: winning the state championship for their division. 

“They really put themselves through it this year,” Holley said. “They are a really hard-working group of girls, a special group.”

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MHS volleyball players celebrate a hard-fought win Thursday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

It’s been an imploded season for Maricopa High School’s varsity volleyball team. Though staying upbeat, the girls had not won a match since Aug. 28 and had not even won a set since Sept. 18. After their first match of the season (the aforementioned win over Camelback), the Rams dropped 19 straight. So, there was more joy than usual in Thursday’s home triumph over Casteel, 3-2. After dropping the first set 19-25, Maricopa came back to win the next two 25-17 and 25-23. Casteel took the fourth game, but the Rams coasted in the fifth set 15-3 for the win. Maricopa (2-19) wraps up its season Tuesday at home with a Senior Night contest against Gilbert (18-20) at 6 p.m.

Members of the Maricopa High School volleyball team had their annual car wash Saturday to raise money for camps and extras not paid for by the school. Sonic allowed the girls use of its parking lot for the event. The season start Aug. 28 with a home match against Camelback.

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Charli Utley (from left), Hailey Valdez and Serena Gutierrez.

Take a group of 13 girls age 12-14, some of whom have never played volleyball, and assign them to two coaches who have never coached volleyball and see what you get. In the case of the Spikers, it was an undefeated season in Maricopa’s recreational league competition.

The Spikers went 7-0, finishing their Senior Division season Feb. 24. League ball tends to be short on volunteer coaches, so dads Mike Valdez and John McCullouch agreed to take over, though some of the youngsters knew more about the game than they did. The group quickly turned into a gang of friends who won by having fun.


Maricopa High School will soon add an aquatic sport to its athletic department.

The MHS swimming and diving team will form this fall with practices and home meets to be held at Copper Sky’s aquatic center, said Maricopa Unified School District Athletic Director Brain Winter.

MUSD has advertised varsity and assistant swim coaching positions online. Winter said he expects to begin screening applicants next week.

The season is expected to begin in early August with daily practices at 3:30 p.m. A meet schedule is not yet completed.

The high school will lease the space from Copper Sky Aquatic Center.

“Depending on the number of swimmers we have at MHS, we will be utilizing the number of lanes that are needed,” Winter said.

Another partnership with Copper Sky produced space this spring for the high school’s first girls’ beach volleyball team, headed by coach Jecksan Quinones.

The team will use Copper Sky’s sand courts for its inaugural season, “but (we) are hopeful to have a couple of sand courts built on the HS campus sometime in 2018,” Winter said in a November interview.

MHS beach volleyball plays its first game away against Valley Vista Feb. 21. The team’s first home game at Copper Sky is Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. against Chandler.

“We are excited to partner with Copper Sky to make these offerings available to our students at MHS,” Winter said.

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MHS volleyball team at Mesquite for play-in. Photo by Jennifer Ford.

Except for one athlete, Maricopa High School wrapped up its fall sports season last week.

Evelyn Corliss, a sophomore runner on the cross country team, ran a personal best 21:37 in the 5K at the Division II Section IV meet Friday. She finished 15th, which qualified her for the Arizona State Championships, which are Nov. 4 at Cave Creek Golf Course. The top 25 runners in each section advanced along with the qualified teams.

“She ran her heart out,” coach Heather Abel said. “She really deserves it.”

Senior Alondra Borbolla Gonzalez finished 27th in 22:36. Freshman Alyssa Frarck was 69th in 25:39. Sophomore Juni Hall was 74th in 26:42. Freshman Kaitlyn Crean was 84th in 30:07, and junior Hayley Mase was 85th in 30:29. Among the boys, junior Alec Kramarczyk was team leader in 31st place in 18:27. Senior Chet Carroll, who won the Maricopa Mud Run the following day, ran 70th in 20:01. Freshman Jovanni Fentes was 79th in 20:53. Sophomore Carlos Chavez ran a personal best 20:55 to finish 80th. Junior Diego Riva was 84th in 21:48. Junior Orion Martin was 91st in 23:19. Senior Gio Hernandez was 92nd in 23:20.

Thursday, the volleyball team, ranked 20th in 5A, competed in a play-in game for a chance to qualify for the state tournament. The Rams fell to No. 13 Mesquite in three, 25-14, 25-18, 25-18. That ended their season with an official overall record of 12-7 and second place in 5A Metro.

Friday, the MHS football team ended its season at home by defeating McClintock in a down-to-the-wire contest. This season, junior Tylen Coleman led all of 5A in sacks with 12, a total was 10th across all divisions in the state. Junior Jacob Cowing was second in 5A overall and first in 5A Metro in receiving yards with 1,081. Senior Alec Smith was third in 5A Metro in passing yards with 1,632, which was 10th in 5A overall. A running quarterback, he had 2,030 total yards. Senior Kemo Akins was third in 5A Metro in rushing yards with 1,040, 17th in all of 5A.


Maricopa varsity volleyball celebrates its ninth win. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After a hard-fought victory over Ironwood (1-11) Wednesday, the Maricopa High School volleyball team is undefeated in 5A Metro play. Outside of tournament competition, the Rams are 9-3 overall.

The win over the rebuilding Eagles – 25-23, 25-21, 29-27 – was tighter than it appeared on paper, with Maricopa having to recover from a seven-point deficit in the third game. Coach Jecksan Quinones called it “an amazing comeback.”

“They were down and they decided to come back and start fighting,” he said. “We had some trouble with players not getting to where they were supposed to be getting, but eventually they worked together and they accomplished what was my goal. I think this is the first time Maricopa beat Ironwood in three years.”

Hosting Wednesday’s match, Maricopa got off to a strong start in the first game, but Ironwood was no pushover. The Eagles came back and pressed the Rams to the end. Ironwood trailed the Rams in the second game, but came back and tied at 9-all and 20-all before Maricopa finally shook loose.

The third game went upside down at the beginning for the Rams, who trailed 9-16. With aggressive plays, they fought back to catch the Eagles at 24-all and then passed them the take the game and the match.

The Rams started the week with a five-game loss to Poston Butte and win over Apollo in straight sets. Last week, they ran through Apollo and Casa Grande.

They are 4-0 in Metro 5A play, tied at the top with Sunnyslope (3-0). Sunnyslope is ranked second in the state in 5A. Maricopa is ranked 19th. Sunnyslope is Maricopa’s next home opponent, Monday at 6 p.m.

“If we play the way we can, I believe that will be a very interesting game,” Quinones said.

Photo by Victor Moreno

The Sequoia Pathway volleyball team defeated Summit in straight sets Tuesday, 25-20, 25-6, 25-11, to build its record to 8-2 overall.

“We are now undefeated in our conference and remain first in our conference,” coach Dawnell Haupt said. “We are working hard to keep our position in post season playoffs.”

The Pumas share the Far South Conference in the Canyon Athletic Association with Mission Heights Prep and Imagine Prep Coolidge.

In Tuesday’s game, Lynniece Andrews had nine kills and 11 aces. Cyndee Byrd had five kills and 17 aces. Mickayla Gallon had five aces, and Lexi Trimmer had three blocks.

They next play at American Leadership Academy – Gilbert Friday at 3 p.m.

Freshman Shakira Gillespie prepares to serve during a varsity volleyball victory over Glendale. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Playing three matches in a row this week, Maricopa High School’s volleyball team pushed through illness and overcame its first loss to build its record to 4-1.

Coach Jecksan Quinones said it became a lesson to all that they need to learn to adapt to change. Coming off the Labor Day weekend, he had hoped to fare better against an inconsistent Mesquite team. The Rams lost the Tuesday match in straight sets.

“It didn’t come out the way I was expecting,” Quinones said. “I had about six girls come back sick with cold, and once they got on that court they weren’t the same as what I know they can be. Wednesday’s game went a lot better.”

Wednesday was a 3-0 victory over McClintock on the road.

Thursday, the Rams hosted winless Glendale. The coach tried to get all his players some time on the court, even when the Cardinals threatened to win the third set. But it was another straight-set victory for Maricopa.

“We’re still getting over that sickness. It’s still a slow game,” Quinones said. “We can see how everybody still needs to learn how to work together.”

Maricopa is 3-0 in its section.

The Rams’ next match is Tuesday at home against Williams Field, and the girls are making it a special evening. They are joining other MHS student groups in gathering donations for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. All students who attend school in Maricopa can get into the game free if they bring a donation. The varsity match begins at 6 p.m.


Carli Rieman and Layla Gardner block a hit from Paradise Valley. Photo by Jonathan Williams

The volleyball season got off to a rolling start for Maricopa High School.

The Rams stacked up two wins this week, both in straight sets. They opened on the road at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande on Tuesday and then hosted Paradise Valley Thursday.

“They came together,” head coach Jecksan Quinones said. “They’re right where I need them to be at. We’re running plays. They’re working. They’ve got the chemistry. They were amazing.”

They defeated the Spartans in overwhelming fashion, 25-10, 25-4, 25-14.

Freshman Layla Gardner had five kills to lead the team. Junior Carly Rieman had three kills. Freshman Ashley Brown served five aces. Freshmen Shakira Gillespie and Emily Thompson served three apiece.

Rieman also had two blocks. Brown led the team digs with 13, while Gardner had seven.

The 5A Metro match against Paradise Valley proved to be tighter affair, with the Rams defeating the Trojans 25-19, 25-23, 25-21.

“There are some plays coming down the road,” Quinones said. “So, we’ll be working on getting them faster and getting them jumping higher.”

After just two matches, Maricopa is the only undefeated team in the Metro section. The varsity Rams next play at Mesquite in Gilbert Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

The Maricopa High School varsity volleyball team is a mix of youth, talent and experience. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Supreme confidence is evident with this season’s Maricopa High School varsity volleyball team.

“I think we’re going to bring something amazing to Maricopa this year.” — Mackenzie Ford

The girls who fell just two points shy of making the playoffs last season have something to prove. Anchored by a group of steady seniors and gifted juniors, the Rams have set their sights high.

Coming so close, junior Carly Rieman said, “gives us a goal now. We have clear sight, so that’s our goal, to get that far and then next year – state.”

Coach Jecksan Quinones repeats often how excited he is about the upcoming season, which starts Aug. 29 at Vista Grande High School. The first home match is Aug. 31 against Paradise Valley.

“There’s a lot of experience on the court,” Quinones said. “They know the game. We still need to work on having them trust a little bit more in one another, but it’s going to be a good program. I’m very excited about this team this year.”

He’s not the only one.

“I am so, so excited,” Rieman said. “We changed so much about the program, and there’s so many new girls with amazing talent. So, I am really hyped for this year.”

The team’s three seniors like the camaraderie that’s developed within the 2017 edition of the volleyball Rams.

“We have a lot of good players and a lot of positivity,” Lissette Duarte said.

“Our team is very young, but I think we all have good team-bonding, so I think we’re going to have great team chemistry,” Teresa Delacruz said.

Jaylene Gosselin was on varsity her sophomore year and was team manager as a junior. This year, she’s back on the court.

“We have a lot of strong players this year. I think it’s going to be a good season,” she said.

Quinones has five freshmen coming to varsity, including 6-foot-0 Alexis Powell, but their talent might belie their age.

“We communicate with each other. We trust each other and we just know how to play with each other,” Powell said.

Coach Quinones said despite having only a week of practice under their belts since team selections, they are already running offensive plays. He estimated the Rams are a week and a half ahead of schedule in their development. Barring an unexpected setback, he is confident the girls will make the playoffs.

“This is supposed to be a great year,” junior Mackenzie Ford said. “We have incredible talent. We have a super-young team but a team that has good attitudes, good energy, and I think we’re going to bring something amazing to Maricopa this year.”


Aug. 24 5 p.m. @Valley Christian (scrimmage)
Aug. 29 5 p.m. @Vista Grande
Aug. 31 6 p.m. Home v. Paradise Valley
Sept. 5 6 p.m. @Mesquite
Sept. 6 6 p.m. @McClintock*
Sept. 7 6 p.m. Home v. Glendale
Sept. 9 8 a.m. Greenway Tournament
Sept. 12 6 p.m. Home v. Williams Field
Sept. 14 6 p.m. @Betty H. Fairfax
Sept. 18 6 p.m. Home v. Apollo*
Sept. 20 6 p.m. @Casa Grande
Sept. 25 6 p.m. @Poston Butte
Sept. 26 6 p.m. @Apollo*
Sept. 27 6 p.m. Home v. Ironwood*
Oct. 2 6 p.m. Home v. Sunnyslope*
Oct. 3 6 p.m. Home v. Kellis*
Oct. 10 6 p.m. @Ironwood*
Oct. 17 6 p.m. @Sunnyslope*
Oct. 19 6 p.m. @Kellis*
Oct. 20 8 a.m. Florence Tournament
Oct. 24 6 p.m. Home v. McClintock* (Senior Night)

*5A Metro competition

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Kenny Oliver, Sam Aviles and Nic Carbajal, all Maricopa High School seniors, were named First Team All-Section. Photos by William Lange

In 5A Metro All-Section voting, Maricopa High School had six football players and three volleyball players receive honors.

Senior Kenny Oliver was named First Team on defense and Second Team on offense. When not messing up other team’s passing games defensively, he averaged more than 56 receiving yards per game for the Rams’ offense and 18 yards per kickoff return.

Sam Aviles, who moved to Maricopa from Missouri for his senior year, was named First Team on special teams for his outstanding kicking. Senior Nickolas Carbajal, in an effective if unsung role on the offensive line, joins Oliver on the offensive First Team.

Jathan Washington, Claytin Valenzuela and Daveon Harris were named to the All-Section Second Team. Photos by William Lange

Seniors Daveon Harris and Claytin Valenzuela were named Second Team on defense. Sophomore running back and sometime quarterback Jathan Washington was named Second Team on offense.

The football team was 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the section.

The volleyball team also played .500 ball with a 9-9 record. The Rams were 4-6 in the section.

In the Metro voting, sophomore powerhouse Carli Rieman was named First Team.

Senior Morgan Peters made the Second Team, and senior Aki Buckmister received honorable mention.

Photos by William Lange
Photos by William Lange

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Photo by Anita McLeod

The Maricopa High School volleyball team defeated Vista Grande in three games,  25-12, 25-20, 25-12, to start the season, but lost to Paradise Valley in three straight games on Thursday. The Rams will host Mesquite on Sept. 6. Varsity games starts at approximately 6 p.m.

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Maricopa's Elizabeth Gallon (back row far left) is one of 12 recruits on William Jessup University's volleyball team. Submitted photo

Returning head coach Shasta Millhollin had a busy off-season preparing for her second year with the William Jessup University Warriors determined to build a program that student-athletes seek to be a part of.

“I am tremendously excited about the 2016 recruiting class,” said Millhollin. “Recruiting 12 new players has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a college coach, but it is also proving to be the most rewarding experience thus far.”

Traveling from Arizona to Rocklin, California, is a freshman Elizabeth Gallon from Maricopa High School. Gallon chose to come to William Jessup not just for the volleyball program, but for the environment.

“Jessup makes you a part of their family no matter what,” said Gallon, “and I love the idea of always being a part of something.”

Gallon will be studying biology while focusing on building a stronger connection to the Lord. “I am really looking forward to what Jessup can truly offer me,” Gallon said.

Millhollin has confidence the 12 recruits for the 2016-17 season will set the bar for the future of volleyball at William Jessup.

“Each of the incoming 2016 recruits brings unconditional intensity and versatility to our program,” Millhollin said.

One of two transfers, Audrey Vaughn comes to Jessup after playing for the Renegades at Ohlone College in Newark, California. The Livermore, California, native dominates the court with her versatility and experience in each attacking position; outside hitter, middle blocker and opposite.

“I chose to come to William Jessup because having a sense of community is extremely important to me,” said transfer Vaughn. “I love that everyone at Jessup is so welcoming.” Vaughn will  be studying be studying business marketing in hopes to pursue her dream of being a sports team marketing coordinator.

Transfer Claudia Diaz heads to Jessup from Solano Community College having experience as an outside hitter and defensive specialist. Diaz is coming off a huge season for the Falcons serving as co-captain while bringing her experience as a full rotational player.

The Fairfield, California, local appreciates the sense of community Jessup brings, as well as the ability to be not too far from home. “At Jessup I would like to earn a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies,” Diaz said. “As well as obtain a multiple subject teaching credential to prepare me to become an elementary school teacher.”

Coach Millhollin recruited a batch right in Jessup’s backyard in these four recruits.

West Campus graduate and Sacramento raised, Vendela Williams joins the Warriors as a duel contributed.  While Williams came to Jessup for the volleyball program, she is grateful to have the opportunity to continue her five-year career in track and field as well.

“I chose Jessup for several reasons,” Williams stated.  “The first was the coaching staff. Coach Shasta is very kind and enthusiastic. She gives 100 percent and expects that from her players in return. Plus knowing that I can continue my track career at the next level is a major bonus!”

Williams has yet to decided what she will be majoring in but is excited to make new memories, gain experience in athletics and further her education.

Just a short trip down the freeway coach found Vacaville Christian standout Alicia Borges from Vacaville, California.  Borges comes to the Warriors with years of high school and club experience with Absolute Volleyball Club, as well as the title of Sierra Delta League’s most valuable player in her final season.

Borges looks forward to studying Psychology while improving the volleyball program in any way possible.

West Sacramento native Taylor Jacky graduated from River City High School as an outside hitter with nearly 400 kills in her senior year. Jacky was voted team MVP as well as league MVP in her standout final high school season.

“After visiting the campus, I fell in love with the same optimism, motivated and caring atmosphere at Jessup,” said Jacky.  “You can tell the people there want to see you succeed. They want to help you reach your goals.”

Jacky will be studying environmental science with the goal to earn her Masters in Marine Biology and hopefully pursue her PH.D. following.

Coming down from Sparks, Nevada, is recruit Jensen Paris, a Reed High graduate and middle blocker. Jensen helped contribute to the Raiders’ winning 23-6 season her junior year with 139 kills on the net.

The 6-foot-2 freshman chose to come to Jessup for the beautiful campus and a great community.

“I loved the volleyball team and Coach Shasta pushed me more than any coach has ever pushed me,” said Jensen. “I can see that she will push me to become a better player and a better human being all around.”

Jensen is pursuing a degree in psychology, minoring in kinesiology in hopes to further her career with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Liberty High School alumna from Peoria, Arizona, Kacey Berger will join the Warriors squad. Berger will impact the line-up defensively in the libero position. The 5-foot-8 freshman led her team with 402 digs, averaging 4.3 digs per set.

“I chose William Jessup University because as soon as I stepped on campus it felt like home,” said Berger. “The girls were so genuine and welcoming, as well as all the students and staff.”

While at Jessup she hopes to grow spiritually and athletically while earning her degree in Education. “I want to create relationships and memories that will last forever,” Berger concluded.

Also from Arizona is Madyson Rahn from Gilbert. The Leading Edge Academy Gilbert Early College graduate has experience in the outside position just shy of 6 feet at 5-foot-11  Rahn has high expectations for her time at Jessup to carry her beyond her four-year career.

“I decided to come to Jessup because I fell in love with the community like atmosphere,” Rahn said. She will be studying human biology and pre-med. “Post-graduation I would like to take my MCATs and go to a great medical school hopefully in Arizona.”

Incoming freshman from Chandler, Arizona, Michaela Zapata has the right mindset in achieving all she needs to in her four years at Jessup. “I would like to do the best in all that I can, including academics and volleyball,” said Zapata. “I want to accomplish setting up the best future for myself.”

Zapata was a competitor at Hamilton High School where she competed in back-to-back Division 1 State Championship title matches. The right side attacker looks to continue her successful career here at Jessup while pursuing a degree in biology.

High School teammate Jessica Williams will join Zapata at Jessup. Williams also resides in Chandler, where she was a three-year varsity setter and played for Spiral Volleyball Club. In her varsity career, Williams averaged 7.9 assists per set with a total of over 1,400 assists.

Williams will be studying kinesiology with hopes to give back to the community in future endeavors.

“After Jessup I would like to pursue my passion to become a personal trainer or physical therapist. Another interest is to become a nutritionist,” said Williams. “I also want to coach a volleyball team and help kids learn more about volleyball!”

Texas native, Laurie Stephan will be joining the team in the spring from South Grand Prairie High School. Stephan looks forward to joining her Warrior teammates to help in building a successful program.

“I chose Jessup because it’s a totally different experience,” said Stephan.  “I fell in love with the campus and the people, then add playing volleyball with a bunch of amazing girls and a brilliant coach was just a plus!”

Stephan will be studying kinesiology to fulfill her dream in becoming a sports physical therapist for a Major League Baseball team.

Coach Millhollin prayed for God’s direction with recruiting for the 2016 class, to bring players to lift the team to another level.

“I am thrilled to report that God has delivered,” Millhollin concluded.  “I can’t wait to see how this season unfolds. We have a team full of dedicated and motivated athletes with a heart for Christ. There is no limit to what we can accomplish.”

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Sherry Bryant stepped in to coach a volleyball team at Copper Sky. Contributed photo

Sherry Bryant was born deaf, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a wife, mother and volleyball coach for Copper Sky Multigenerational Center’s youth volleyball league.

Bryant can’t hear and she doesn’t speak, but she uses hand gestures and written notes to communicate with players. During practice, she is often in the action pointing players to proper positions and cheering on successful plays.

Her desire to coach stems from more than her love of the game. She is able to spend time with her daughter on the court and show that deaf people are not limited.

“My daughter plays, and I feel it benefits her and the girls,” Bryant said. “If there are no volunteers, there might be no one to coach. Another reason is to show deaf people can do it.”

From time to time, Bryant’s players are unable to understand their coach’s instructions.

“This is my first (coaching) experience,” Bryant said. “My assistant coach (Nikki Lucchesi) helps me a lot. She speaks to the players.”

For Copper Sky Sports Coordinator David Aviles, picking Bryant to coach was simple.

“When you run a sports program there are times you run low on coaches,” Aviles said. “I reached out to the parents for the girls, and [Bryant] volunteered. She’s done a great job and really enjoys it.”

Bryant’s team won its first game. The players were attentive to her instructions.

“It’s inspirational for the kids to see that she’s out there coaching,” Aviles said. “She takes a hands-on approach and plays with them. It seems to be working well.”

This story appeared in the February issue of InMaricopa News.

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MHS senior Liz Gallon has declared her intention to play volleyball at William Jessup University. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Elizabeth Gallon, a senior middle hitter for the Maricopa High School volleyball team, will be joining a new team in the fall.

Friday, Gallon signed a letter of intent to play for William Jessup University, a private college in Rocklin, California, near Sacramento. With an enrollment of 1,146, WJU competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“I liked the coach and the environment at the school,” the California native said of her campus visit. “It seemed very fun.”

Gallon did not play volleyball until her freshman year. Julia Jefferson, her first high school coach and her Arizona Heat club coach, said she played very well and still has “lots of room for growth” for a college program that is rebuilding after a 6-21 season.

Her senior season at MHS, Gallon had 198 kills, 144 blocks and 73 aces. That was a jump from 67 kills, 105 blocks and 20 aces her junior year.

The Rams’ record this year was 12-17.

Gallon shifted to volleyball after playing junior high basketball, tired of hearing “basketball is in my blood” when she realized she really wasn’t all that excited about it.

Gallon’s mother Lashieka Holley was Jefferson’s assistant coach during Liz’s first three seasons of high school volleyball. This school year, Jefferson stepped down, and Holley became the head coach for her daughter’s senior season.

She said coaching her own daughter has been “difficult but fun at the same time.”

Jefferson said Gallon came to her as a junior and said she might be interested in playing at the next level. Jefferson told her there many opportunities and spoke to Holley about the possibilities. Knowing WJU coach Shasta Millhollin-Bossom, who is in her first year at WJU and previously coached at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Jefferson is excited about Gallon’s future.

“I think she’ll do extremely well,” Jefferson said.

Gallon has not decided on a field of study. Holley said her daughter may be leaning toward biology.

Sophomore Jaylene Gosselin slams a return against Chandler Preparatory Academy Thursday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School Rams volleyball team suffered another blow to their playoff hopes after losing their fourth straight match Thursday night.

Maricopa hosted the top ranked team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Volleyball Power Rankings, Chandler Preparatory Academy. The top-ranked Titans lived up to the hype and showed tremendous skill against the faltering Rams.

Maricopa stepped up to the level of competition and played well against Chandler Prep, but by the end of the game, the Titans beat the Rams in straight sets.

“They’re having a mental battle right now,” MHS volleyball head coach Lashieka Holley said. “They know exactly what they need to do and they know we have all the components to do what we need to do. And when these top teams come in we step up and play and we frazzle them, we just don’t finish.”

Nearly a month ago, the Rams reached as high as 15 in the AIA Power Rankings. Since then, Maricopa has won only once over their last eight matches and dropped out of the top 32.

With just four matches and a tournament left on the schedule, Maricopa’s chances of climbing back into the playoff picture are very low. Even if they were to pull upsets over their higher ranking final opponents, the Rams would need quite a bit of help from other teams pulling upsets in order to earn a playoff spot.

“Even if we were to pull off these next four games, we’d still have a long shot of getting in (the playoffs),” They’re must-wins, but at the end of the day we still don’t know if we would get in. We needed to pull off this one today (against Chandler Prep).”

The Rams will hit the road for their next three games before returning for their final regular season game against Apache Junction on Oct. 29.

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From left at the net: Freshman Makenzie Ford, senior Taylor Meyers and junior Aki Bukmister team up to block a spike attempt from Poston Butte High School during their match on Oct. 1. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School volleyball team’s hopes to make the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III State Volleyball Tournament have diminished after two consecutive losses to lower ranking teams.

The Rams came into October ranked 26th in the state, according to Maxpreps.com. Since the top 32 teams will move on to the state playoffs, they were still in good shape. However, after losses to Phoenix Country Day School and Poston Butte High School over the last two weeks, Maricopa has dropped to 42nd in the AIA Power Rankings.

“We started off with a bang,” MHS volleyball head coach Lashieka Holley said. “They came out fighting and for whatever reason they didn’t finish. That’s been our problem this season. We just don’t know how to finish at the end of the day.”

The Rams have played well against the better teams on their schedule so far, but they seem to struggle with teams they should be beating. Their loss to the 50th-ranked Poston Butte Broncos will be a tough hurdle to overcome.

“We absolutely have to pull some upsets,” Holley said. “Mark (Cisterna) and I were talking about it a couple weeks ago. We have some on the schedule that we can still pull off.”

Upsets will be the key for Maricopa to gain enough ground in the rankings to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1980s. Fortunately for the Rams, all six of their remaining opponents are ranked above them in the state standings. Their final opponents include top ranked Chandler Preparatory Academy and eighth ranked Tempe Preparatory Academy.

“It’s still doable,” Holley said. “With our girls, the way they play, if they show up and play how they were playing three weeks ago when we were playing Florence we’ll be fine. I have no worries.”

MHS volleyball remaining schedule
Oct. 6 –  at Veritas Preparatory Academy (#24 in AIA Power Rankings)
Oct. 15 – Chandler Preparatory Academy (#1 in AIA Power Rankings)
Oct. 20 – at Fountain Hills High School (#13 in AIA Power Rankings)
Oct. 22 – at Gila Ridge High School (#37 in AIA Power Rankings)
Oct. 27 – at Tempe Preparatory Academy (#8 in AIA Power Rankings)
Oct. 29 – Apache Junction High School (#41 in AIA Power Rankings)

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Senior Cierra Cureton delivers an ace during Maricopa High School's victory over Vista Grande High School Tuesday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School volleyball team remains in playoff position at the midway point of the season after another up-and-down week of play.

The Rams fell to Valley Christian High School on the road on Monday, but rebounded against section opponent Vista Grande on Tuesday. In both games, Maricopa was competitive, but the Rams shined against the Spartans on Tuesday and used their superior size to control the match.

“It was a little slow, but we pulled out the win,” MHS volleyball Head Coach Lashieka Holley said. “They didn’t play at their level, and they should’ve been
working on some things. We were counting on this win, but after [Monday’s] loss, I’m proud in how they came back and fought to ensure they got the win.”

In the match against Valley Christian, the Trojans were able to take advantage of Maricopa mistakes and snatch a victory in straight sets. The Trojans are currently ranked in the top 10 for Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III volleyball, but the Rams showed tremendous heart and skill throughout the match.

“[Against Valley Christian] the team just made more mistakes than they did,” Holley said. “All sets were really close and we should’ve pulled it out. We seemed to get to 20 and we’d just get stuck. We keep letting teams come back on us for some reason and we need to learn to finish.”

On Thursday, Maricopa fell to Phoenix Country Day School at home. This was just their second home loss of the year, but it was a game the team was expected to win. The Eagles shocked the Rams on their home court and took the match in straight sets.

The Rams overall record at the midway point will drop to 7-7. However, the team is still ranked in the top 32 in the state, and that would qualify them for the AIA Division III State Tournament.

“We definitely have to bring it,” Holley said. “We have to come prepared and if we show up and play [like we can] we won’t have any worries.”

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The Maricopa High School volleyball team fell to Florence High School in straight sets, but head coach Lashieka Holley was happy with her team’s improved defense.

Florence entered Thursday’s game ranked third in Maxpreps.com’s poll of Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III volleyball. The Gophers looked to be the dominant team with powerful striking and quick footwork. However, the feisty Rams defense frustrated the Gophers front line with consistent blocks and digs.

“They did great,” Holley said. “They did everything I needed them to do. For us to show up like that gives me hope for the rest of the season. Florence is No. 1 in our division, so they put up a good show.”

The stingy Maricopa defense took a visible toll on the Florence players. The Gophers have tremendous power in their spikes, but their game plan was forced to adjust their hits to taps over the blockers instead of powerful slams. The Rams successful blocks and returns also obviously frustrated Florence head coach Casey Simon as well. Throughout the match, he was seen pacing up and down his bench, constantly correcting his team, and consistently shouting, “No more errors” to his players.

“He got pretty heated,” Holley said. “[The Rams successful play] gave him fits, and I haven’t seen him react like that in years.”

The Rams eventually fell in straight sets by scores of 25-21, 25-18 and 26-24. Maricopa rallied from a significant hole in each set, but Florence pulled away. Despite the loss, Holley was encouraged by the improvement she saw from the Rams’ four set loss to Casa Grande High School on Tuesday.

“After Tuesday night, we couldn’t get a block to save our life,” Holley said. “They were a small team and it made no sense, so at yesterday’s practice, all we did for two and a half hours was block, block, block, block, block.” The Rams fell to the Casa Grande Cougars by scores of 21-25, 20-25, 25-22, and 20-25.

Holley said Maricopa hadn’t lost to Casa Grande in a few years, so it was a disappointing defeat. The Cougars were able to walk away with a win over their rival, while the Rams were forced to see what corrections they needed to make as a team moving forward.

“We need to continue to work on our unity as a team,” Holley said. “I think that was the difference on Tuesday. Casa played as a team, and we didn’t show up and play as a team at all. So our focus is to get that dynamic as a team going since our schedule only gets tougher.”

Before the letdown in Casa Grande on Tuesday, Maricopa competed in the Greenway Invitational Tournament in Phoenix over the weekend. The Rams first match of the tournament was against the top ranked team in Division III, the Greenway Demons. The Rams were blown out in the first set 21-4. However, the team rallied in the second set and lost a nail biter by a score of 25-21. The Demons went on to win the tournament on their home floor and remained undefeated on the year.

Maricopa faced Division I power Sunrise Mountain High School (Peoria) in their second match. Again, the Rams were outmatched, but a tremendous performance against a significantly larger school inspired the Rams for the rest of the tournament.

The Rams took down the Moon Valley High School (Phoenix) Rockets and the Alhambra High School (Avondale) Lions in straight sets to finish sixth in the tournament. The Rams are ranked 15th in the Maxpreps.com rankings of Division III and hold an overall record of 6 wins and 5 losses. The team will travel to Chandler to take on the 13th ranked Valley Christian High School Trojans Monday night before returning home on Tuesday to host the Vista Grande High School Spartans. The Rams will finish out a busy week on Thursday at home against the Phoenix Country Day School Eagles.

“Florence should be our toughest match until we hit playoffs, but everything is going to be tougher for us going forward,” Holley said. “If they play like they did [against Florence] going forward and I can keep them consistent like that, we’ll have a good shot.”

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By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School volleyball team has won four matches in a row by straight sets.

Since dropping their first match of the season to Horizon Honors High School, the Rams have dominated their competition. This week, they swept through Catalina Magnet High School and Cholla High Magnet School in straight sets.

According to head coach Lashieka Holley, the team has been playing at a high level this week, but the competition has not been the best. The Rams have been as dominant as they should be, but the true test of how good this team is will be in the upcoming weeks when they take on perennial powers such as Florence and Valley Christian high schools.

“We’re still playing at a (Arizona Interscholastic Association) Division II level, so hopefully we’ll carry that into playing some of the better teams we have coming up,” Holley said. “Everything has been good. They slowed down their pace to [their competition], but they were having some fun. My younger players have stepped up, and around the board they all played well.”

Tuesday night, the Rams dominated Catalina in straight sets by scores of 25-8, 25-13, 25-8. As a team, Maricopa controlled the pace of the game. There were times when the Rams seemed to coast a bit and mistakes were made, but the game never seemed to be in doubt.

Senior Elizabeth Gallon was dominant on both serves and defense. Senior Annalyn Concepcion also shined in multiple positions throughout the match.

Overall, Coach Holley was happy with her team’s performance, but felt they were a bit sloppy in their victory. Had they played to their full potential, Holley believes they wouldn’t have given up nearly as many points to the Trojans.

“They definitely need to work on the basic fundamentals,” Holley said. “Our blocks aren’t there yet. We’re doing a lot of block drills in practice to try to get them to close their blocks. When we see those bigger teams they have strong outside hitters with bigger and taller girls that are more matched to our level. There should be a lot of rallying.”

On Thursday, Maricopa traveled to Tucson to take on the Cholla Chargers. This was the first time the Rams had been on the road since losing to Horizon Honors, and they were able to dispel any worries they couldn’t win outside of Maricopa. The Rams won in straight sets by scores of 25 to 7, 25 to 12 and 25 to 9.

Gallon once again led her team with a standout performance that included eight kills and four blocks. Senior outside hitter Lillian Clay also stepped up in what was only her second match of season. She finished with five kills on the night. Rounding out the top performers was junior Morgan Peters. She kept the Chargers on their heels with 10 aces on the night.

As the Rams move forward, the competition will get increasingly more difficult. The Rams will be participating Saturday’s Greenway Invitation in Phoenix, and their first matchup will be against the talented Moon Valley High School Rockets. The Rams next regular season match will find them on the road against Casa Grande High School on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

“We’re going to need to condition more so we can go five sets,” Holley said. “We haven’t had to go five sets yet, but we’ll need to pick our pace up and play our game. If we play our game we’ll be fine.”

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Senior Annalyn Concepcion works on the basics as the team prepares for the upcoming season. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

Practice has officially begun for the Maricopa High School volleyball team, and despite being a fairly young team, they have high hopes for their season.

Maricopa volleyball hasn’t qualified for the state playoffs in three decades. Talented players have come through, but no team has been able to piece together a playoff run since the 1980s. This year’s girls believe they can change that.

They will be somewhat inexperienced, but dropping from Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II to Division III combined with the tremendous amount of talent they have will provide them with a great opportunity to challenge for a playoff spot.

“We have a new coach and it’s a lot of change,” senior middle blocker Elizabeth Gallon said. “It’s still the same program, but it’s a new one at the same time. It’s going to be a lot of changes, I guess; new changes that will benefit us.”

Embracing change starts with the coach and trickles down to the players. The positive focus of Holley appears to be reaching the players. The athletes are viewing each challenge as a step to their goals instead of an obstacle.

“We do have a new coach, but I’m really excited because she is really determined and focused for us to do well this year,” senior libero Annalyn Concepcion said. “Personally I just really want to enjoy this year. It’s my last year here and I expect it to be really fun and for us to work really hard.”

The team will open their season on Aug. 26 with a scrimmage against Marana Mountain View at 5 p.m. in Tucson. Their first regular season game will be the following Monday at 5 p.m. at Horizon Honors High School, and their first home game is Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. against Kofa High School.

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The MHS volleyball team wants to build on a winning season. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

Despite losing four starters from last year’s team, first-year head coach Lashieka Holley has high hopes for her team.

The 2015 version of the Maricopa High School Rams volleyball team will have only two returning starters, but Holley believes the foundation laid by last year’s senior class will be a boost to this year’s squad.

Half of the six seniors on the 2014 team – Taylor Holz, Kourtney Brown and Katelin Jensen – joined their former teammate, 2013 graduate Briauna “Breezy” Tutwiler, at Southern Connecticut State University.

“We lost a big group of seniors last year, with four of them being starters,” Holley said. “The graduating class of 2015 set a strong foundation for the future of MHS volleyball. We are only returning two starters from the 2014 team, [which] finished with the best record yet for MHS at 10-7.”

According to Holley, the team will depend heavily on three-year starter Liz Gallon. Gallon, who plays middle hitter, was named Second Team All-Section in 2013, and All-Conference Honorable Mention in 2014.

“Gallon was one of the leading blockers in the section and division both her sophomore and junior year,” Holley said. “Helping Liz this season will be returning junior setter Morgan Peters, who will step into the starting setter position, and senior [middle blocker] Annalyn Concepcion. All three will play a huge role in helping this team accomplish their main goal of making it to the playoffs for the first time since the ‘80s.”

If the 2015 team is to succeed, they will need to cope with a tremendous amount of change. This season will feature a new coach, a new section and a new division. Due to division expansion, Maricopa will no longer be competing in Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II. Instead, volleyball will compete in Division III.

“This is a move that we are very excited about as it will put us more evenly matched with the schools that we play,” Holley said. “Our new section includes Horizon, Apache Junction, Chandler Prep, Tempe Prep and Florence, just to name a few. The varsity team will also be competing in the Florence Tournament as well as the Greenway Tournament.”

The division change could prove to be beneficial for the team, but losing five-year head coach Julia Jefferson will be tough to overcome. Jefferson vacated her head coaching position after accepting another job.

“[Jefferson’s] decision to leave was hard for her, but one that was made in the best interest of herself and her daughters’ futures,” Holley said. “I am excited to be named the head coach for the 2015 season and the challenges we will endure. I have worked with Coach Julia for the past four years and feel very confident that we will keep building on the foundation that was created here at MHS and that this team will make it to the playoffs.”

Like many teams at Maricopa High School, the 2015 Volleyball Rams will be young.

“We have a lot going for us this season, but only hard work, dedication and commitment will determine our end results,” Holley said.

Maricopa High School Volleyball
Aug. 26     at Marana Mtn. View (scrimmage)    5 p.m.
Aug. 31     at Horizon Honors                           5 p.m.
Sept. 1      vs. Kofa                                            6 p.m.
Sept. 3      vs. Flowing Wells                            6 p.m.
Sept. 8      vs. Catalina Magnet                         6 p.m.
Sept. 10    at Cholla High Magnet                    6 p.m.
Sept. 15    at Casa Grande                                6 p.m.
Sept. 17    vs. Florence                                    6 p.m.
Sept. 21    at Valley Christian                          6 p.m.
Sept. 22    vs. Vista Grande                              6 p.m.
Sept. 24    vs. Phoenix Country Day School     6 p.m.
Oct. 1        at Poston Butte                              6 p.m.
Oct. 6        at Veritas Preparatory Academy     6 p.m.
Oct. 15      vs. Chandler Preparatory Academy6 p.m.
Oct. 20      at Fountain Hills                            6 p.m.
Oct. 22      at Gila Ridge                                  6 p.m.
Oct. 27      at Tempe Preparatory Academy     6 p.m.
Oct. 29      vs. Apache Junction (Senior Night) 6 p.m.