In the second year of the program, the Maricopa High School boys volleyball team is making its mark with its No. 10 ranking in the 6A Conference, which set the stage for a blockbuster home match Thursday against No. 7 Shadow Mountain.
The Rams fought valiantly, with many lead changes, before falling in straight games, 3-0, and dropping to 6-2 this season.
Head coach Tia Kannapel said that despite the setback in the big match the players are moving in the right direction.
“We have to keep seeing this level of competition,” Kannapel said. “But so far, it’s been a really great start to the season.”
The Rams have come back stronger from losing in the play-ins to get into the state-tournament field last year.
“We keep calling this our revenge tour,” Kannapel said. “And we’ve actually come back and beat all of those teams that we lost to last year.”
Minus one middle-hitter, every player returned from last year. Six days a week, they have been fine-tuning the details and working on their skills to show their dominance.
Among the Rams’ leaders is Ty Rieman, a senior outside-hitter, who leads the team in aces and unreturned serves.
He also encourages his teammates, keeping them focused when the match gets close.
“Slow down, let’s play our game,” Rieman told his teammates during the tense final set of Thursday night’s game.
Marco Gutierrez is the senior libero – easy to spot in a white jersey – who mainly focuses on the defense, diving across the court for digs and receptions.
All 10 Rams play six rotations during a match.
“We have really solid hitters and options,” Kannapel said. “We’re really grateful to have that stability on the court.”
Kannapel has an extensive volleyball background with 11 years of experience on the court and 4 years coaching on the sideline. She has worked with players ages 10-18, coached under the ASU staff for three seasons and has been a part of the recruiting process.
When she came to Maricopa, Kannapel had big visions for the boys program. Only two players had ever played volleyball before, so Kannapel started with the basics.
“It was about life lessons,” she said. “We talked about being a good teammate, a good student, cleaning the bleachers after a game, working hard, never quitting, putting in every effort that you can. All the things that you can control.”
The team initially didn’t focus on the outcome. But as it turned out, the Rams started winning.
Now, Kannapel said the boys are setting the precedent for future players. They are going to inspire other freshmen, who don’t know what volleyball is, to step on the court and try.
Follow the Rams and find when they are playing next.
Check out a few photos from Thursday’s match from InMaricopa’s Bryan Mordt: