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Sheila Brown, a senior on the Mingus Union High School volleyball team, nails the ball over the net during practice Tuesday, Aug. 16. The team faces Camp Verde for the first game of the season Tuesday, Aug. 30.The 2011 version of the Mingus Union High School volleyball team will be different from the last few years of competition.

Mingus has a new coach in Brian Herman, who was the assistant under longtime Head Coach Audrey Islas for three years. He was hired over the summer and is looking to bring the Marauders to the next level.

Mingus graduated several seniors last May including Amanda Randolph, Lashea Taylor, Kayla Dixon and Jessica Zaske. They were the cream of the crop in 2010, leaving this year’s squad with plenty of questions to answer and a lot to prove.

Mingus’ schedule is a little different than in the past, playing in Division III [Section I] within the new Arizona Interscholastic Association alignment.

In 2010, the Marauders finished the season with a 9-9 overall record and were 5-3 in the 4A-II Grand Canyon region.

Although the region technically doesn’t exist this season, Mingus still has old region rivals Coconino and Flagstaff high schools on the docket for 2011.

Mingus was swept by Amphitheater High School in the first round of the 4A-II conference state playoffs in November 2010, 3-0. Again, the 4A-II no longer exists, as the AIA traded it for Division III.

Nevertheless, this year’s group is looking to succeed and continue making the state playoffs, something the program has accomplished in the last three seasons.

Top returners for Mingus include seniors Cortlin Sandoval, Sheila Brown, Vanessa Vera and Taylor Brott.

Sandoval returns as libero while Brown and Brott will take turns at right outside hitter. Vera should be the defensive specialist for Mingus when the season gets under way Tuesday, Aug. 30, at cross-valley rival Camp Verde High School.

Three juniors return as well for the Marauders in Kalina Boysen, Delaney Scanlan and Bailey Mabery. Boysen is by far the best middle blocker for the Marauders while Scanlan should be the top setter on the team. Mabery will find her way at outside hitter this season.

Sophomore Angel Chavez returns after a stellar freshman campaign in 2010. Chavez should be the top left outside hitter for the Marauders this season according to Herman.

“Angel [Chavez] isn’t real big, but she hits it really hard,” Herman said. “As for Delaney [Scanlan], she is an incredible setter and she gets better and better every day.”

When asked what he thought his team’s strengths were so far in the first week and a half of practice, Herman reported the hitting for the Marauders is strong.

“We look pretty strong hitting, but we’re weak in the middle right now which is why we have two sophomores at that position. For the long run, having two young girls there will help us out but they have to improve every day,” Herman said.

As for the schedule, Herman believes this year’s list is much tougher than last year with two matches against Prescott High School, Sedona Red Rock High School and Flagstaff this season.

“We usually only play those teams once, but this year, we get to see them twice,” Herman said.

Other tough teams the Marauders will see this season include Bradshaw Mountain and Cactus Shadows high schools.

“We play a few teams outside of our division so I’m not sure if it’s going to help us or hurt us. I think it will be beneficial to us because we’ll see tougher teams right away, so we’ll be ready if we make the playoffs,” Herman said.

After the Camp Verde match on Aug. 30, Mingus plays host to Prescott on Thursday, Sept. 1, in its home opener. Official start time is set for 6 p.m.

Backed by family and friends and flanked by his mother, Toni Glenn, right, and his former coach, Bob Young, left, 2009 Mingus Union High School graduate and football player Robert Ortiz, center, signs his letter of intent to play football for Dakota State University on Thursday, Aug. 4. Ortiz will be a wide receiver and kick returner for the Trojans. He is scheduled to leave for South Dakota on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Ortiz has two years of eligibility left.Cottonwood resident Robert Ortiz signed his letter of intent at a local pizzeria Thursday, Aug. 4, to play football for Dakota State University in the fall, giving friends and family something to celebrate.

It’s been a long time coming for Ortiz, who graduated from Mingus Union High School in May 2009.

In the last two academic school years, Ortiz attended Scottsdale Community College, playing one year of football for the Artichokes. Ortiz had a 3.31 grade point average at SCC and plans to do the same at Dakota State.

Ortiz originally wanted to stay at SCC one more semester in an effort to graduate this December with his associate degree. He set up several college visits however, basically marketing himself to colleges around the country, hoping to play football for someone in January.

“That’s why I went to a few campus visits this summer,” Ortiz said. “I went to Dakota State at the end of July and they liked what I had to offer after playing in a seven-on-seven game.”

Ortiz explained the coaching staff came up to him, asking him what it would take to get him in a Dakota State uniform this fall, instead of next season.

“I came back July 25 from the visit, and by July 26 they called saying they had a complete package for me, and I wouldn’t have to pay anything,” Ortiz said with a smile.

By July 27, Ortiz gave his verbal commitment and a week later he was in front of family and friends making it official.

Ortiz admitted he put a lot of thought into the decision, stating he had several conversations with teammates and coaches at SCC, and they all said it was the right move.

“They basically just said I can’t pass up the opportunity. I can’t wait to get going,” Ortiz said.

He didn’t hesitate to mention that football is his life and there isn’t much room for other hobbies. Ortiz believes all his hard work is paying off by getting this scholarship to go to Dakota State.

Ortiz earned three varsity letters playing for Head Coach Bob Young and the Marauders during the 2006 through 2008 seasons. He also played basketball and ran with the track and field team in the spring.

Ortiz has two years of eligibility left and plans on using every bit of it at Dakota State while studying and earning a degree in physical education. He added the transition from SCC to Dakota State will not be a hassle either, as all his credits earned at SCC will transfer over nicely.

Dakota State is located in Madison, S.D., and is led by third-year Head Coach Josh Anderson.

Anderson has athletic ties to the state of Arizona, where he led the Payson High School football team for three seasons between 2006 and 2008 and was the head man in charge at Chino Valley High School from 2003 to 2005.

Ortiz won’t have long to rest before shipping off to South Dakota. He leaves Wednesday, Aug. 10, to start his career with the Trojans.

“I have two years of eligibility left, and I’m really excited to get out there and get going,” Ortiz said.

Having been an umpire with Verde Valley Little League since 2003, current league President Jayne Lee admits to having been tagged by a ball or two over the years. “It’s the foul balls that get you,” Lee said Tuesday, July 26, while recalling some of the players she has watched grow up in the Verde Valley’s baseball and softball scene.The hardest-working people are usually the ones who get no credit, no pat on the back on a job well done, no limelight. Jayne Lee, a 49-year-old Cottonwood resident, certainly falls into this category.

In 2008, Lee was named Verde Valley Little League commissioner with the purpose of keeping the league going strong, and improving it whenever she could.

Sitting in the concrete stands just days after the Verde Valley Little League completed its season, Lee was happy to report another successful year.

“We did get the batting cage built, and we finally have a storage place for our equipment needs. We also put up an information case for the public,” Lee said.

“The kids had a great year on the field, too, with a few teams representing Cottonwood at various state tournaments. Our board was fantastic as well. Everyone chipped in and did their part. It’s one of the better Little League years for sure,” Lee added.

The Verde Valley Little League supports the play of over 400 kids from Cottonwood and its surrounding towns.

That’s 400 kids with 400 sets of parents and grandparents, friends and family.

That’s a lot to keep happy for Lee in one of the more thankless jobs in the country. Remember, Little League people are strictly on volunteer pay.

Born in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Lee went to Alta Loma High School before graduating in 1979. Lee never played sports in high school, but did play soccer and softball in the seventh and eighth grades.

“This was the ’70s. This is when girls just started to want to play sports. It was a very rural area too, so there wasn’t much to offer,” Lee said.

Instead of playing Little League softball like so many girls do today, Lee managed to hook on to Miss Softball America, a program for girls to play softball.

“Little League only started introducing softball for girls about 15 years ago,” Lee said sadly.

Lee eventually moved to Cottonwood in 1996 after having three kids and working at a local hospital in San Bernardino, Calif. She decided it was best to move to Cottonwood because it was a better place to raise a family.

Lee didn’t take long to get involved in the area, taking a job at a local hospital in admitting, and working at a family-owned liquor store. Lee also found work as a librarian.

By 1998, Lee decided it was finally time to get back into school and enrolled at Ottawa University Phoenix, a satellite campus for OU in Canada.

After eight long years, Lee graduated with a degree in elementary education in 2005 at the age of 43.

“I was working two jobs, raising three kids, participating in Little League and going to school at night,” Lee said with a big smile and sense of accomplishment.

Lee took most of her degree courses online, but did have to drive to Phoenix twice, sometimes three times a week, to attend class in the last year or so of her schooling.

“I was on the eight-year plan,” Lee laughed. “I know people that don’t have kids, don’t work like I do and still take that long to get a degree.”

As for softball in the Verde Valley, it wasn’t until 1999 the Verde Valley Little League started teams for girls at the age level. By 2008, Lee had done such a good job of getting the softball program off the ground that she was asked to be the commissioner.

She also began umpiring in 2003, something she still does to this day for local Little Leagues and state tournaments.

“I’ve worked several state and regional tournaments. I’m eligible to go to the World Series now if I get picked at the juniors level,” Lee said.

In her spare time, the little she has, Lee likes to go hiking and loves to travel. She recently took a trip to the Grand Canyon where she was able to do the river tour.

Lee also cheers on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but said she doesn’t have much time to follow them.

Her greatest free time hobby however is to spend time with family.

“I also like to spend time with family. They are important to me. I don’t follow sports that much any more, just when my kids played them. I live through them,” Lee said.

Tyler Kelly pitched his tail off Monday, July 11, in an 8-4 loss to the Camp Verde All-Stars. Kelly and his Verde Valley Majors All-Stars baseball team [ages 11 to 12] finished the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament with a 2-2 record.Despite having one of its best pitchers on the mound Monday, July 11, the Verde Valley Majors All-Stars baseball team [ages 11 to 12] was eliminated, 8-4.

“I’m happy with the kids, even though I don’t think they performed up to their ability,” Verde Valley Head Coach Creighton Kim said. “I am a little disappointed that things didn’t line up for us the way we hoped.”

At the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament in Prescott Valley on Monday, Verde Valley sent 11-year-old Tyler Kelly to the mound to face its crosstown rival, the Camp Verde All-Stars.

After throwing a zero up on the board in the first inning, Kelly went on to allow Camp Verde to score two runs in the second, and three runs each in the third and fourth innings and was chased from the game after 85 pitches.

Down 2-0, Verde Valley scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning to tie it, 2-2, but then gave up the three runs in the third and the fourth on several miscues, and trailed 8-4 which was the final.

Kelly went four innings, allowing eight runs, four of which were earned, on four hits and one walk while striking out six Camp Verde hitters.

Kim brought in 12-year-old relief pitcher Jordan Estrada who shut down Camp Verde in his one inning of work in the fifth.

In the sixth, 12-year-old Josh Cole did the same, keeping Verde Valley close, but in the end, the boys in red couldn’t get it done with the bats.

Standouts at the plate for Verde Valley included Kelly who was 3-4 on the game while 12-year-old third baseman Bailey Pelletier was 2-3 with two runs scored. Right fielder Tim Loper, 12, was 2-3 as well with two runs scored.

Verde Valley began its tournament with an impressive 7-0 win July 5 over the Chino Valley All-Stars, but lost July 6 to the Prescott Valley All-Stars, 10-5.

After beating the Wickenburg All-Stars on Saturday, July 9, 14-0, Verde Valley earned the right to play Camp Verde.

With the 8-4 loss to Camp Verde, Verde Valley finishes the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament with a 2-2 record.

Camp Verde went on to defeat the Prescott South All-Stars on Tuesday, July 12, 4-0, putting them in the District 10 championship game Wednesday, July 13, against Prescott Valley.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. Camp Verde will need to defeat Prescott Valley twice if it expects to win the title.

Justine Taylor, 14, readies herself on the blocks for a 50-yard butterfly event during the Verde Valley Invitational at the Cottonwood Community Pool on Saturday, July 30.Thirty years of competition has taken place in the pool for Northern Arizona swim teams at the Verde Valley Invitational, but there hasn’t been a team that dominated like the Clippers did this past weekend.

For the Cottonwood Swim Team, second-year Head Coach Erin Estes and her group of swimmers blew all attending teams out of the water like the last scene of “Jaws.”

The boys were most impressive for Cottonwood on Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, at the Cottonwood Community Pool, taking first overall with 1,019.50 points.

That total nearly doubles the score of second-place finisher Bullhead City Swim Team, which finished with 544 points.

The Sedona Swim Team finished third with 505 points while the Needles Swim Team took fourth with 490 points. The Prescott Valley Swim Team wrapped up the top five with 349 points.

For the girls, the Clippers were just as dominant, scoring 1,247 points for first place while Bullhead City took second with 672.

Sedona was third with 643, Needles was fourth with 381 and the Payson Swim Team was fifth with 351 points.

Altogether, the Clippers recorded 20 first-place finishes and had 56 medals combined, an impressive feat.

“They all looked good. We had a lot of swimmers in the pool over the weekend so it was impressive,” second-year Cottonwood Head Coach Erin Estes said.

Top performances for the Clippers include 8-year-old Cassidy Gallegos, who finished first overall in the 50-yard freestyle event with a 50.52 time.

Gunner Tillemans, 10, won the 50-yard freestyle with a 32.82 time while 14-year-old Anthony Wokasch took first with a 200-yard freestyle time of 2:18.20. Wokasch was first in the 1,650-yard freestyle event as well with a 21:58.33 time.

Tillemans also took first in the 100-yard individual medley with a 1:30.37 time and was first in the 25-yard butterfly event with a 18.83 time.

Other top performances include 8-year-old Bella Lockhart, who took first in the 25-yard backstroke event with a 24.07 time, while 10-year-old teammate Rylie Burke was first in the same event with a 20.49 time.

In the 50-yard backstroke event, 12-year-old Isaiah Wright was first overall with a 36.89 time while 17-year-old Kyla Furey was first in the same event with a 32.30 time.

Dylan Russett, 8, was first in the 25-yard butterfly with a 32.07 time and 14-year-old Francesca Settann was first in the 100-yard freestyle with a 1:06.75 time.

Former Mingus Union High School standout Sarah Raber, 19, was first in the 50-yard breaststroke event with a 34.91 time.

As for the relays, the Clippers won the 100-yard medley relay with a 1:24.16 time. Burke, Tillemans, 9-year-old Emma Warner and 10-year-old Fletch Fangman were on the team.

Wokasch and Settanni teamed with 14-year-old Justine Taylor and 13-year-old Sean Williams to take first in the 200-yard medley relay with a 2:21.30 time.

Shannon Knowles, 16, Ryan Adams, 16, Mikiel Block, 17, and 17-year-old Colin Mount were first in the 200-yard medley relay as well in their age group with a 1:58.72 time.

The Verde Valley Invitational is the last Clippers meet of the summer, but for many of the older swimmers, the Marauders’ swimming season begins next week.

It’s been an interesting summer so far for Mingus Union High School Athletic Director Mike Boysen. He’s had a few head coach positions open up at the end of spring and has worked tirelessly to fill them.

Brian Herman was officially announced by Mingus Union High School Athletic Director Mike Boysen on July 13 as the new head volleyball coach for the Marauders. Herman played  volleyball in high school in Pennsylvania and was a Mingus assistant volleyball coach under Audrey Islas since 2008 before receiving the promotion.On July 13, Boysen officially ended the search for a new volleyball coach. He didn’t have to look far, naming three-year assistant coach Brian Herman the Marauders’ next head volleyball coach.

“I think he’ll do a good job for us. He’ll be just fine,” Boysen said Tuesday.

Herman took over for longtime Mingus Head Coach Audrey Islas on an interim basis halfway through the 2010 season, but the title was not official until this week.

Islas took a leave of absence from the school and decided to make it a permanent decision at the end of spring, leaving the Marauders without a volleyball coach.

At first, Herman wasn’t interested in the job, stating that he thought it was better for the school to find a teacher to replace Islas’ class load first, preferably a teacher who would want to coach volleyball as well.

Midway through July, it didn’t look like Boysen was going to find a suitable replacement, thus coming to Herman to help him out.

“They had trouble filling the slot. Ideally the school needs to find a teacher that can coach volleyball too. But, I’m glad to be the new head coach. I look forward to working with the girls,” Herman said Tuesday.

Not far from Philadelphia sits a little town called Lancaster, Penn., where Herman grew up.

Living in the Verde Valley is a little different than growing up on the East Coast. The long, cold, 12-foot snowdrift winters are no longer present, and neither are bodies of water for that matter.

Trading oak trees and miles of green for desert and a few cacti couldn’t have been easy, but so far, Herman is making do.

Herman graduated from Penn Manor High School in 1997 before moving on to Pennsylvania State University.

Herman lasted only a semester at PSU before deciding to follow his dream to become a pilot and an aerospace engineer. He moved to Prescott Valley in 1999 to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“I wanted to do it right and get into the flight program so I decided to move out here,” Herman said.

Herman lasted only two years in the program before dropping out due to financial reasons in 2001. He also met the love of his life in Kristy, who he married the same year.

“The student loans began to run out and I had huge bills so I had to stop. It was a tough decision,” Herman said.

Herman began work in a concrete masonry business his wife’s father owned, and has been doing it ever since. He is currently a concrete foreman. Herman and his wife Kristy have three children — Alek, 6, Anrika, 4, and Kalee, 3.

In high school, Herman played soccer and volleyball and was a second team All-Conference selection for volleyball his junior season.

Herman became interested in coaching volleyball at Mingus when he first moved to the Verde Valley 10 years ago, but never had the time to do so.

“I never had the time at first. But now, with the downturn in the economy, I have some time to work with the kids,” Herman said.

He joined the Mingus coaching staff in 2008 and has worked as the head assistant coach for three years until being named  head coach this week.

“I’d like to maintain the level of play Audrey [Islas] did here and I think I can do that. We expect to make state, we expect to compete and we want to continue to build a strong program here at Mingus,” Herman said.

In his spare time, Herman likes to still play volleyball, participating in local recreation leagues, and he hunts and fishes.

Herman is a big Nittany Lions fan and likes to follow the Arizona Cardinals football team.

“I’m happy to be here and I look forward to this opportunity,” Herman said.

The Verde Valley All-Stars baseball team [ages 10 to 11] claimed the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament championship Thursday, June 30, defeating the Camp Verde All-Stars, 10-6. It is coach Pete Kelly’s second District 10 title in as many years, after he coached the Verde Valley Minors All-Stars [ages 9 to 10] to a title in 2010.The Verde Valley All-Stars baseball team [ages 10 to 11] claimed the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament championship Thursday, June 30.

Verde Valley would get its rival in the Camp Verde All-Stars on Friday in the title game, a rematch from the first-round game June 27 which Verde Valley won, 11-1.

Verde Valley defeated the Prescott Valley All-Stars in the tournament semifinals June 28, 16-6, which earned the team a spot in the finals. Verde Valley outscored its opponents 37-13 in three tournament games.

Up 6-5 heading into the top of the sixth inning, Verde Valley tallied four runs on five base hits to put things out of reach for Camp Verde.

“I actually said to the boys, ‘I want at least three runs in this inning. We need to get a big lead.’ For whatever reason, it worked, and we were able to win the championship,” Verde Valley skipper Pete Kelly said.

It is the second District 10 title for Kelly, who coached the Verde Valley Minors All-Stars baseball team [ages 9 to 10] to a district title in 2010.

Starting pitcher Jose Pacheco, 11, toed the mound for Verde Valley on Thursday looking to shut down the cross-valley rival at Butler Park in Camp Verde.

Pacheco was brilliant against Camp Verde in game one, and wasn’t far off in the title game against the same lineup.

Pacheco pitched a complete game, going six innings while allowing six runs, four of which were unearned in the 10-6 victory.

“He started against Camp Verde in our first game, so I figured he’d do a good job against them again this time around,” Kelly said.

Pacheco held Camp Verde at bay for several innings, but it was the Verde Valley offensive attack in the sixth which put it away for the boys in red.

Center fielder Matt Bachler, 11, had a big hit to get things going for Verde Valley in the sixth, abd 11-year-old Gus Henley had a clutch three-run double in the inning to put Verde Valley up 10-5.

“I thought the kids performed well. I was a bit disappointed in the errors in that last game, but it was a good team effort,” said Kelly, whose team went 3-0 in the district tournament.

When asked if he expected to win the tournament, Kelly was as modest as possible in saying there were some good teams in the tournament, but he was confident the Verde Valley boys would get it done.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the 11’s tournament. Some leagues pull up all the 11-year-old kids to the 12’s team, and some keep them down,” Kelly said.

Verde Valley will take some time off before hitting the practice field once again in preparation for the Arizona Little League State Championships, scheduled to begin in Yuma on Monday, July 18.

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