Millennium sand volleyball makes title game in 1st season

Shane McOwen's picture
MILLENNIUM’S BEACH VOLLEYBALL TEAM poses with their Division I state runners-up trophy. The Lady Tigers lost to Xavier Prep 4-1 in the finals during their inaugural season in the sport. View photo by Shane McOwen
MILLENNIUM’S BEACH VOLLEYBALL TEAM poses with their Division I state runners-up trophy. The Lady Tigers lost to Xavier Prep 4-1 in the finals during their inaugural season in the sport. View photo by Shane McOwen

Lady Tigers lose to Xavier in Division I state championship

For many new programs, it takes years to build into a powerhouse and compete for state titles. Millennium’s girls beach volleyball team didn’t quite get that memo.

The Lady Tigers made it all the way to the Division I state title game in their inaugural season when they lost to Phoenix Xavier, 4-1, in the final May 2 at Mesquite High School in Gilbert.

Millennium finished 8-3 in power-points games in its first season, and finished second in the Division I, Section I standings, behind Flagstaff Coconino. The Lady Tigers earned the No. 10 seed, and saw familiar opponents in their path to start the playoffs.

The Lady Tigers had a chance to win the section in the season finale against Coconino, but dropped the match three games to two. The loss bumped them down to the No. 10 seed, matching them up against section foe Surprise Valley Vista, a team Millennium had beat 5-0 earlier in the season. The Lady Tigers won the rematch, 4-1, in the first round, setting up another showdown with Coconino.

When we saw the bracket, we had Valley Vista first. [We said], let’s get through Valley to get to Coconino,” Millennium coach Priscilla Tallman said. “Anytime you get to play a team again that you lost to, there’s definitely a fire. You’re able to fix things, able to tweak things to be able to play that same team again, but differently.”

The adjustments worked to perfection as Millennium swept past Coconino, winning all five games in the second round. Millennium beat Tucson Salpointe Catholic in the semifinals by again winning all five games to earn a chance at a state title in its first ever season of beach volleyball.

Honestly, I went into it thinking we could win,” Tallman said. “I think the heartache of it is we didn’t play as well as we could have. If we would have gone out and played our best volleyball ever and lost, that would be fine, but we [struggled against Xavier].”

The Lady Tigers lost 4-1, but were the only team that was able to win a game against Xavier in the playoffs, and something only three other teams were able to do all season.

Xavier has some very specific beach-skilled players,” Tallman said. “I think that was one of the things we were definitely lacking. You could tell we had adapted pretty well to the sand. We’re hard workers, we scrap, we do a lot of things right. When you’re playing against players who specifically train for beach, [it’s hard] when you don’t have any of them. Not as an excuse, but you could tell there was a very beach game, and our team was doing the best we could.”


Humble beginnings

Tallman and Julie Vastine, assistant coach and head indoor volleyball coach, kickstarted the beach volleyball program as another opportunity for the girls to work on their skills in the spring.

We started the program because we wanted to give the girls something to do in the offseason, and we wanted to make it fun,” Tallman said. “Our whole goal was, how can we complement our indoor game with the beach game? [We wanted] to get them some conditioning, get them some training, get them some beach skills, and make sure we have a good time.”

Tallman said everything worked out as they hoped, even without the success of the state playoff run.

We worked with the club coaches and managed the schedule pretty good,” Tallman said. “The goal was to not burn them out. We want them to love volleyball. [We didn’t want] to require anything more than we’re going to work hard and we’re going to have fun.”

The Lady Tigers are poised for another successful run in 2018 as well. The team loses only two seniors out of a roster of 12.

Everyone else is young,” Tallman said. “We definitely have a lot of room to grow, a lot of room to adapt and learn the game. Julie and I have learned a ton this year.”


Shane McOwen can be reached at or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.

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