Fall 2014: Prescott volleyball excited behind fast-paced offense, revamped lineup
PRESCOTT, Arizona - Prescott High volleyball has only 10 players on its varsity roster in 2014. But coach Shellie Bowman sure likes the talented and motivated girls that she has, as all of them should see significant playing time this fall.
Led by 6-foot-1 returning junior setter/hitter Raphael Temple, the Daily Courier's 2013 prep volleyball Player of the Year, PHS plans to make a return to trip to the Division 2 state tournament.
The current campaign begins Sept. 2 at home versus Cottonwood Mingus Union. First serve is 6 p.m. at the Dome gym.
Last fall, the Badgers compiled a 14-3 record in power-point matches and reached the playoffs as a No. 9 seed, falling in the first round to No. 8 Glendale Deer Valley in five close games.
Bowman's current players made it known in the off-season that they're not satisfied with simply qualifying for state.
"We're talking about winning state," Bowman said from practice this week. "If you look at the back of their (warm-up) shirts it says, 'One Team. One Dream.' That's their goal. They want to take it as far as they can take it in the postseason."
The coach and Temple realize that developing camaraderie among the players is important, however, as several of them are still getting used to each other's tendencies.
"This group of girls has never played together before," Temple said. "So it's really interesting finding out the new chemistry. And, actually, it's working out really well."
Besides Temple, the returnees who'll contribute are senior outside hitters Sydney Koehler and Sierra Howard, senior defensive specialist Alissa Becker and junior middle blocker Veronica Norkus.
Half of the roster's players are newcomers, including one junior and four sophomores.
"Some of them have played together on separate teams, and so we mixed kind of two teams," Bowman said. "Some were JV. Some were freshmen."
The newbies are setter Erinn Marroquin, OH Abbey Smith, MB Alex Koehler (Sydney's younger sister) and libero Grace Hendricks, who form the sophomore contingent, and hitter/MB Bailey Anderson, one of the Badgers' three juniors.
"I think the sophomores will step up and do a really good job," Temple said. "I believe in them and I believe in their talent."
In the off-season, most of the Badgers played Club ball and were involved in open-gym workouts. Many of the younger players traveled to Phoenix College and competed in a league down there, Bowman added, on top of attending camps.
"A lot of these girls are Club players, so they've had a lot of practice playing ball," said Becker, a third-year varsity player. "Our first practice was an amazing practice right off the bat. There are a lot of good girls that know how to play the game."
Temple, a second team All-Division 2 setter/hitter last fall, led PHS offensively with 380 kills and a hitting percentage of .368, which put her first in the Badgers' section.
"She's hitting a lot harder - getting on top of the ball," Bowman said of Temple's off-season progression. "She has really lowered her sets, (because) we want to run a faster offense."
Marroquin has done a nice job of learning that faster offense, Bowman added, to help take some pressure off Temple.
And that's important, because the 6-2 alignment has six hitters and two setters, meaning Temple and Marroquin will often play on the floor together. The 6-2 allows Marroquini to set for the heavy-hitting Temple.
No matter the system, Temple said she and her teammates are ready to take the next step in their progression. In the off-season, Temple attended three big camps, including those at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.
"I think this year is different," Temple said of the Badgers' aspirations. "Everyone wants to go to state. Everyone's believing in us."
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc