Mingus Union High School head volleyball coach Chelsea Chavez spent her first season working on solidifying the team’s defense.
Now in her second year, the focus has shifted to the offensive end, and the Marauders are looking to put the whole package together in 2017.
“Last year we wanted to focus on defense a lot and this year, I wanted to step up our game and focus on offense, so running a faster offense,” Chavez said. “Middles are going off one foot, quicker hits, outside hitters are constantly being set. Just the small things that can help us in our conference this year.”
The reasoning behind Chavez’s desire to run a faster offense? Because the team struggles against one. Replicating that in practice every day forces improvement, and that improvement showed in a scrimmage on Aug. 19.
The Marauders traveled to Sedona Red Rock High School, one of the top teams in Conference 2A that also runs a fast offense. And they did well against the Scorpions, too.
“When we played Sedona last Saturday it was a complete 360 from when we played against them in the summertime. The girls have had more time together and to practice with each other,” Chavez said.
Despite six departures from last year, the team should not miss a beat. A mix of returners and newcomers from junior varsity are competing for spots, and have already begun to gel together at the same time.
“The girls just click well, they can read each others’ tendencies like who’s frustrated, how they get each other back up. We have some power hitters this year, we have solid outside hitters,” Chavez said. “My team this year, they’re a lot more competitive. I’m not saying that last year’s team wasn’t competitive, but each girl is fighting for her spot on the court, that’s how much talent I have.”
The Marauders program is growing stronger at all levels. For the first time in years, Chavez said, there are freshmen on the junior varsity team.
One newcomer to the varsity team is senior Julian Smyda, a 6-foot, 1-inch middle hitter who should make an impact. Also returning with a lot of varsity time is senior outside hitters Nikki Zielinski and Katelyn Prouty, and junior libero Sarah Williams.
In the weeks leading up to the Marauders’ opening match, Chavez has been working specifically on game situations, namely rotations, drawing on her experience from playing at NCAA Division II Northern State University.
Practices and drills are designed around game simulation to acclimate her players to anything.
“They’re learning how to take tips, they’re learning how to take deep corners, so I’m giving them kind of situations in a game that they would probably struggle with,” Chavez said. “They are practicing each of those rotations together so that if I throw them in they’ll know exactly where to go, what to do and how to handle a situation if it’s brought to them.”
In terms of goals, Chavez said she keeps things realistic. Last season the Marauders finished fifth in the Grand Canyon Region with a 3-9 record, so this year the goal is to at least finish in fourth.
However she admitted that making the Conference 4A state tournament is the ultimate goal.
Mingus was thrust into region action from the get-go, with a match at Bradshaw Mountain High School on Tuesday, Aug. 29. The Bears finished one spot below the Marauders last season, but match results were unavailable at press time.
Their next match is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Saguaro High School before they welcome the Dysart High School Demons at the same time the following night.