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Youngker volleyball heightening expectations

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Skylar Reed of Youngker High School volleyball digs one out of the back during practice before their first match. (West Valley View photo by Ray Thomas)

By Casey Pritchard

Youngker volleyball coach Troy Sherman isn’t sugar coating his expectations this year: He wants to make a run in the state playoffs.

“We’re a school that has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs in volleyball, and it is something we’re setting a goal on this year,” Sherman said.

The Lady Roughriders have won 93 games combined over the last three seasons, but each year exited the postseason in the opening round. Last year’s team was 27-13, but very young. Having that success could pay dividends this season in terms of experience.

“Every single time we can get to the playoffs it’s important,” Sherman said. “Building that culture and that expectation for those girls to not just desire to be there, but expect for themselves to be there based on what they’re capable of is huge heading into the season.”

Sherman said his team looks good in preseason practices so far. After losing just two integral players to graduation last year, the Lady Roughriders are senior heavy, but still have a mix of young talent.

Senior outside hitter Skylar Reed is back for her third season on varsity, coming off a year in which she broke the school’s single-season kills record with 471.

“We hope to keep her just as effective moving into this year,” Sherman said. “Skylar puts in a ton of effort, not just during school season, but all year long. The amount of training she’s put in has really been the key to her development.”

Senior Taylore Draper is another strong attacker for Youngker. She was fourth on the team in kills last year with 116, and led in blocks with 32.

Seniors Monique Tometich and Kaya Sturdivan are battling for attacking positions, but that has yet to be settled, Sherman said. He likes that there is healthy competition among the team.

“If you don’t have a team that’s capable of pushing each other, everything just kind of gets stagnant,” Sherman said. “In the past we have had those situations, but this year there’s plenty of competition to go around, not just with the seniors, but the younger girls as well.”

Samantha Sanchez is another senior starter, and the team’s libero. She was an all-conference player last year, Sherman said.

“Sam just has a ton of range,” Sherman said. “She has the tendency to get to balls that even surprise us when she does it. She started a majority of matches for us at that position last year. It’s that consistency and the level of effort that is huge to have on the court.”

Junior Mackenzie Cumbie is the setter, and playing her third season on varsity. As a freshman, Cumbie was one of two setters in a 6-2 offensive system. Last year, Sherman changed things and used Cumbie as the lone setter in a 5-1, moving the other setter, Mariah Tometich, to a different role. Sherman plans on sticking with the 5-1 again this year, he said.

“Last year, we noticed the setting was consistent between the two players, but we had Mariah focus on defense only and not take over the setting role (in the back row), and we created a lot more opportunities,” Sherman said. “Having that same type of system with a right back defensive specialist … we expect the same level of efficiency to be there.

“(Cumbie) does a really good job at keeping a fast pace in our offense, which is one of the main reasons we had her take over last year, and we look forward to having her do that again this year.”

Sherman is not stubborn in his ways though. He’ll adjust the team’s offense and defense depending on its personnel and how it’s playing.

“Each team is kind of its own animal,” Sherman said. “You have to look at the pieces that are there and use the talent that you have. That does create some difficult decisions sometimes, but we don’t come in with just one set blueprint that we want to see on the court, we try to look at how the girls have grown and put our system together based on their current abilities so we can do our best to help them win.”

Youngker began its season at 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 29, at Phoenix Greenway. Two nights later, the Lady Roughriders travel to Flagstaff. Those early tests could be significant, as Sherman said this Youngker team is special.

“I’m excited about it and I don’t think there’s any team within our conference that we don’t have the ability to match up against,” Sherman said. “So, we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. We’re making sure we train hard every day and we’re doing what’s right to keep our athletes healthy, and giving them the best opportunities to have those chances come late in the season.”  

 
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