Photo by Wendy Howell.
The Lady Vikes started the season with a bang, winning their second straight three-set match Aug. 31 against Phoenix Day.
With the loss of just two players to graduation, the Lady Vikes head into the season with a mature team led by eight seniors and three juniors.
“I lost Kami (Batterton) and Rheanon (Koss), so I only had two spots to fill,” said head coach Chesney Grantham. “So the girls have competed for spots, and I think it’s been a healthy competition for them.”
The Lady Vikes eased into the season with a scrimmage against Northland Prep Academy and then headed to Flagstaff to face Basis.
“The girls played tough, although our serving wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” Grantham said.
Grantham said she was pleased with the girls’ performance at the match with Phoenix Day. She said the girls are playing well together and attributes it to a summer of practice.
“I have a very dedicated group who put in a lot of work this summer,” Grantham said. “It shows that we’ve been playing together. My goal was to get them familiar with each other and trust each other.”
Grantham said she is encouraged by the development of returning players Riley Heap (senior), Destinee Pennington (senior) and Maegan Ford (sophomore).
She said the addition of newcomer Anna Chaney has been a welcome addition.
“She is a transfer,” Grantham said. “I would love to have had her last year, she has been an amazing addition.”
Grantham said she expects strong hitting from Chaney and middle blocker Tori Maebe.
She also said Pennington, a two time All-State libero, will be a strong presence on the court.
Grand Canyon University graduate and former volleyball player Tommyka Phillips is new to the coaching staff this year. Phillips will assist Grantham and be the head JV coach.
“She has really helped with my hitting and the whole game,” Grantham said. “I’m learning from her and so are the girls.”
Grantham said she the team has made it to the first round of the state playoffs each year she has coached the team, and she hopes to advance further this year.
“Last year we had a young team,” she said. “But I can’t say that anymore. I threw in my subs in the last game (Phoenix Day) and it really didn’t make much of a difference. I have a lot of experienced girls.”
Grantham attributes her strong players to a good junior varsity program. She anticipates the program will be even stronger this year with Phillips assisting.
“I am very involved with my JV for a reason,” Grantham said. “Because they are your feeder program. Some don’t think it is as important. I lost two seniors who I thought were important for the team, but I’ve had girls step up to the positions that I didn’t know would be ready.”
Grantham said the team has seven freshmen and several other newcomers that were added to the team this year. With those numbers, the Vikings were able to create a freshman team who will see action this year.
The Lady Vikes faced Bagdad Sept. 1 and Grand Canyon Sept. 5, and can next be seen Sept. 7 at 4 p.m and 5 p.m. at home against Salome.