After winning four straight state girls volleyball championships from 2008-11, Phoenix Sunnyslope fell back a bit last season. The Vikings reached the Division II tournament as the No. 16 seed, but their stay was brief, as they fell to top-seeded and eventual state champion Flagstaff in the opening round.
The slate is clean in 2013. Flagstaff moved to Division III and Sunnyslope . . . well, is there room for another banner on the gymnasium wall?
This season’s version of the Vikings isn’t nearly as powerful as those title teams that included Madi Kingdon, now launching mortars across the Pac-12 for the University of Arizona.
But this season’s version might be better defensively and perhaps might be better athletically than some of its predecessors.
On the heels of a third-place finish in the (Mesa) Westwood Tournament of Champions over the weekend, Sunnyslope came back with a 3-0 victory over host Division I Glendale Mountain Ridge on Monday night (Sept. 23).
The Vikings spotted the Mountain Lions a 4-0 lead in the first game, but eventually gained control and posted a 25-23 win. The second game was no contest 25-11 and Mountain Ridge gave it a good shot in the third game before falling 25-21.
“We’re building things around playing good defense,’’ said Sunnyslope coach Amber LeTarte.
The Vikings work well together, talking and communicating the entire way. They pass and set well, and they do have a power presence in senior outside hitter Jenny Thompson.
The 5-foot-9 Thompson is undecided right now on a college choice, according to LeTarte, and it is hard to believe that some high-level school would hesitate in bringing her on board.
“She leads by example. She works hard in practice and in games,’’ LeTarte said.
There are three other seniors on the team, the rest underclassmen.
Two important young players are sophomore outside hitter Skylar Wine (6-1) and sophomore middle blocker Emma Wright (6-2).
Another key ingredient is junior libero Molly Fleury (5-7), who has a wicked serve.
“She is very consistent and very accurate,’’ LeTarte said.
A bit more consistency might allow Mountain Ridge to be a factor come D-I playoff time. The Mountain Lions are capable of making some noise, particularly when junior front-liner Rachel Mugar (5-10) is on her game.