MV volleyball team eyeing state playoffs
By Quentin Jodie
KAYENTA, Ariz., October 25, 2012
(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)
T he natural order of things became skewed for the Monument Valley Lady Mustangs at last year's Arizona Division III state volleyball championships.
The Mustangs experienced an anomaly when they were ousted in the second round after making the finals for six straight years.
"Obviously a MV team has never has gone out that early," Mustang sophomore middle hitter Ohiyah Shirley said. "We have always played in a championship game so losing that early was shocking."
Still, last year's loss was sort of expected considering the personnel they lost.
"We were just inexperienced," MV coach Pamela Chapman said. "We lost some good hitters the year before so we knew it was going to be a rebuilding year."
And with 11 seniors on that 2011 team, Chapman was expecting another season like that.
But so far that has not been the case as MV enters tonight's regular season finale at Ganado as the No. 6 seed despite returning only three starters from last year's team.
"The JV players that moved up have really stepped up," Chapman said. "But that doesn't surprise me because a lot of these girls have the passion to play volleyball.
"They have the motivation, the dedication and the commitment to work hard," she added. "Our goal is to make the state playoffs with a good seed and hopefully we can play in that championship game."
Unlike last season, Chapman said this year's playoff should be more balanced, adding that any of the 16 teams that get invited has a legitimate shot at winning state.
"Last year Seton Catholic was the state's powerhouse," she said of the private parochial school in Chandler, Ariz. "They graduated most of their players, but that is a team that I am still worried about."
Incidentally, it was Seton Catholic that ended MV's season as the Sentinels had their way in a rather easy 3-0 win.
"I don't want to experience that feeling again," MV junior outside hitter Brooke Curleyhair said. "It was tough to go out like that so over the summer we worked really hard to get better."
As for the new crop of players, Curleyhair said they have matured into winners.
"They don't have that state-level experience, but they are willing to step up," she said. "They want to do what it takes to win."
Besides Curleyhair and Shirley, the Mustangs also returned sophomore outside hitter Taylor Worker from last year's team.
Those three players have steadied MV's ship to an 18-3 record, which includes Saturday's doubleheader win over Window Rock.
The Mustangs won the first match by scores of 25-17, 25-17, 25-23. And then they completed the sweep with a 25-23, 25-15, 25-17 win.
In the final game, MV hammered down 30 kills with Curleyhair knocking down ten. Shirley added eight winners while Worker and sophomore middle hitter Kaitlyn Wayne added four each.
Those winners were a result of a good passing game as MV took a few swings with an open net.
"We needed that passing game," Curleyhair said. "If you don't have that, you don't have anything because the pass starts the offense."
"Their blocking was a little slow so we took advantage with our quick sets," Shirley added.
The Mustangs also put up lofty numbers at the service line with a variety of aces. All in all, MV put across 16 aces with Worker getting credited for six of those winners while Shirley and Curleyhair added five and four, respectively.
"In practice, they have to have 15 serves in a row before they leave," Chapman said. "And they have to be tough serves."
As for Window Rock they finished the final contest with 19 kills led by Aspen Sheperd. The senior middle blocker was almost flawless at the net as she recorded 11 kills and five stuff blocks.
But late in the first game, she suffered a scare and nudged the back of her head against the gym floor while trying to save the ball on a long rally with the Scouts leading 23-22.
She played the next two sets, but midway through the third game she sat on the sidelines in what appeared to be a concussion.
At press time, the Scouts were ranked No. 23 in the latest AIA polls, which was released on Oct. 23.
Window Rock coach Amelia Holtsoi was not available comment.