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3:12 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

Preview: Yavapai College spikers still aim for postseason despite being green

Junior College Volleyball

Yavapai College volleyball players Pilar Daugherty (setter), Nynke de Vries (outside hitter), Victoria McCarty (libero), Annie Harte (outside hitter), Makenna Busse, middle blocker, Lexi Cole (right side hitter), await a serve during a drill Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Yavapai College volleyball players Pilar Daugherty (setter), Nynke de Vries (outside hitter), Victoria McCarty (libero), Annie Harte (outside hitter), Makenna Busse, middle blocker, Lexi Cole (right side hitter), await a serve during a drill Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

PRESCOTT — When 2017 first team All-ACCAC setter Kanani Hiapo transferred unexpectedly to NAIA Benedictine-Mesa over the off-season, Yavapai College’s volleyball team was left with four sophomores on its roster.

Of those four ladies, two of them played consistently last season. The Roughriders finished 15-12 overall (8-5 conference) as the NJCAA District B runner-up to Eastern Arizona College.

“We fell off the last two weeks of the season,” sixth-year Roughriders coach Zach Shaver said. “With four or five matches to go with a three-match lead, I thought for sure we’d have a conference championship. We played well in the postseason, though.”

2018 Yavapai College Volleyball

Affiliation: NJCAA Division I

Conference: ACCAC

2017 Record: 15-12 (8-5 ACCAC)

2017 Playoffs: DNQ

Coach: Zach Shaver, 6th season

2018 Players to Watch: OH Nynke de Vries, Soph.; MB Lacie Tenney, Fr.; S Pilar Daugherty, Fr.; L Victoria McCarty, Soph.

2018 Schedule:

Date Opponent Time

8/24 Seward County CC! 11 a.m.

Panola College! 2 p.m.

8/25 North Central Texas! 8 a.m.

Garden City CC! 2 p.m.

8/30 North Lake College 7 p.m.

8/31 Utah State-Eastern^ 1 p.m.

Colorado Northwest CC^ 7 p.m.

9/1 Snow College^ 11 a.m.

Southern Nevada^ 4 p.m.

9/5 at Pima CC* 7 p.m.

9/12 at South Mountain CC* 7 p.m.

9/14 Seward County CC% 11 a.m.

Salt Lake CC% 3 p.m.

9/15 Utah State-Eastern% 9 a.m.

Victor Valley CC% Noon

9/19 at Eastern Arizona* 7 p.m.

9/21 Mesa CC* 7 p.m.

9/26 at Arizona Western* 7 p.m.

9/28 at Chandler-Gilbert CC* 7 p.m.

10/5 at Eastern Arizona* 7 p.m.

10/10 Arizona Western* 7 p.m.

10/12 Glendale CC* 7 p.m.

10/17 Scottsdale CC* 7 p.m.

10/19 Arizona Western* 7 p.m.

10/24 Eastern Arizona*# 7 p.m.

10/26 Phoenix College*# 7 p.m.

10/31 NJCAA Region 1 Semifinals TBA

11/2 NJCAA Region 1 Finals TBA

11/6 NJCAA District Finals TBA

! NMMI Classic; Roswell, New Mexico

^ Dalton Overstreet Invitational, Prescott

% Coyote Invitational, Las Vegas

  • ACCAC Match

Prescott Valley Event Center

Entering the 2018 campaign, which opens against stalwart Seward County C.C. Friday, Aug. 24, at the New Mexico Military Institute Invitational in Roswell, New Mexico, Yavapai will compete with a 17-player roster of 12 freshmen and five sophomores.

Yavapai will be tested early in the season, facing four NJCAA Top 20-ranked foes from 2017 before conference play starts Sept. 5.

“We’re going to find out how good we are right away,” Shaver said. “We need some confidence, but we also need to be challenged to get it.”

With Hiapo’s departure, Shaver has four setters, including returnee Raymi Hernandez of Flagstaff and freshmen Pilar Daugherty of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Paola Ortiz of Tolleson, and Shelby Willis of Parker, Colorado (last setter recruited).

“We already had one of our incoming setters recruited, and she’s very, very good and very athletic, and she was going to be challenging our returning setter [Hiapo] anyway,” Shaver said. “The only thing that really changed is we had to go out and get one more that we weren’t planning on.”

Hernandez, the presumed starter in the spring, said Hiapo leaving was “definitely a surprise for everyone” and that she “was like my best friend on the team.”

“Our other three [freshman] setters are amazing,” Hernandez said. “I’m excited because of the competition I’m going to have with them.”

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Shaver, who’s led Yavapai to three straight postseason appearances, including the program’s first NJCAA Division I National Championship Tournament qualification in 2015, now expects the Roughriders to reach nationals each year.

For 2018, the postseason format switches to a two-match region tournament, followed by a district championship against the West Texas region champ (includes New Mexico). In Region 1, Division I, only Yavapai, Eastern and Arizona Western will contend for the crown after Central Arizona dropped volleyball in the off-season.

“We know where we have to go,” Yavapai sophomore outside hitter Nynke de Vries said of her team. “This year it’s going to be harder because we have to win three playoff matches [instead of two] against teams we’ve never seen. But we’ll be fine.”

Over the past three seasons, Yavapai has won a region/district championship and qualified for nationals for the first time (2015), lost in the district semifinals to Eastern Arizona (2016), and lost in the district final to Eastern (2017).

2018 TEAM

This fall, Shaver will lean on de Vries of the Netherlands, who led Yavapai with 294 kills in 27 matches in 2017, in the attack.

“She’s really physically and mentally matured this past spring,” Shaver said. “We knew she always had the skill, but the consistency was lacking in the fall. And we were able to kind of break through a wall with her mentally, and I’ve really seen a lot of improvement. When she came back to camp, she impressed me.”

Freshmen Zeleya Loop of Tucson, Skylar Redd of Casa Grande and Annie Harte of Glendale join de Vries at OH. Two weeks ago, in preseason camp, the Roughriders scrimmaged, and de Vries said she liked the power hitting she saw from the hitters.

“We already played really well – it felt like we were always playing together,” de Vries said.

Added Redd, “The first day [of camp] was a little rough because some of us hadn’t played in a while, because school season was ending and they wanted to have summer before they came here. But as the camp progressed, we meshed so well together that I was not worried about this season at all.

“These girls know how to bring it.”

Defensively, the Roughriders have five middle blockers. Sophomores Alayah Villegas of Tucson (transfer from Chandler-Gilbert C.C) and Makenna Busse of Susanville, California, join freshmen Lexi Cole (6-foot) of Clovis, New Mexico, Lacie Tenney (6-1) of Mesa, and Stela Velinova (6-1) of Sofia, Bulgaria.

“I don’t think we’re going to see the same starting seven a lot of the season,” Shaver said. “There’s going to be a lot of in and out based on improvement and consistency.”

At libero, sophomore Victoria McCarty of Phoenix returns and should start. Freshmen Victoria Logan of Kingman and Brenda Gomez of Phoenix are also in the mix.

“Overall, our team is strong,” Hernandez said. “We have one of the strongest teams we’ve had.”

Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.