VERDE VALLEY - Last year Mingus and Camp Verde volleyball didn't make the playoffs. This year there's reason to believe they can, not only make it to the postseason, but win playoff games. Here is a rundown of why high school volleyball will be a hot ticket in the Verde Valley this season.
The power-point formula kept Mingus out of the playoffs last year; the Marauders were unjustly penalized for only having 17 games on the schedule, one less than most other schools. This year the formula is fixed, but the Marauders scheduled 18 games just in case.
Delaney Scanlan. Kalina Boysen, Holly Drake, and Bailey Mabery enter their senior seasons. Those four upperclassmen will be the backbone of the team.
"I'm going to try and keep substitutions to a minimum this year, so a lot of our girls will be playing the whole way around, definitely more than last year" said Mingus head coach Brian Herman. "We've got pretty good well-rounded players this year. Last year we had more specialized players -- middle front, outside hitters that didn't play defense, defensive players that didn't play offense, but coming into this season they've all kind of figured out the game, so we're planning on letting them play the whole way around."
Junior Angel Chavez also played full rotations last year for the Marauders and will continue to this season. She's been playing varsity volleyball since she was a freshman, so she's a de facto senior.
The multi-sport Marauders certainly have the athleticism to play full matches, and Herman hopes the increased playing time for his most versatile players will increase continuity and chemistry.
In her third year as the team's setter, Scanlan knows about the importance of continuity.
"Delaney is the glue that holds us all together -- she's an incredible player. We don't have a backup setter. She's it. She's what we got, but she's carried our team for . . . this will be her third year now. She does amazing things when she's on the court and she makes everyone else around her that much better," said Herman.
Mingus plays powerhouse programs Prescott and Flagstaff early in the season. Mingus should match up better against them this year, but they'll still need sharp play to win. Last season Mingus played those schools twice, but this year they'll just play them both once.
The Marauders picked up two games against defending D-IV state champion Northwest Christian to make up for dropping the two matches with Flag and Prescott. Mingus also picked up a match against Snowflake to give the Marauders 18 matches.
Jenny Lawson, Donnie Buss, Amanda Showers, Katie Wilson -- if you know who these girls, you know they've played varsity volleyball for the Cowboys since they were freshmen and they're seniors this year.
With a full cast of seniors, something absent from Camp Verde volleyball the last two seasons, the Cowboys expect to have a great year. Jade Ruiz is also a senior on the squad entering her second varsity season.
"It should be exciting," said Camp Verde head coach Darcy Evans. "Their chemistry should come together nicely because they've been playing together for so many years."
Donnie Buss chose to play soccer last year, but in her senior season she's decided to play volleyball again. That choice was huge for Evans' Cowboys. Katie Wilson cried when she heard the news.
"That really helps our offense and our defense," said Evans. "I was struggling with who I was going to play in opposite position and who was going to play middle. Jenny plays opposite so well because she's a lefty, so Donnie coming back made my lineup decisions much easier."
Buss played a very strong middle her sophomore season, but she played soccer her junior year to try something different.
"I came back to play volleyball because it's my senior year and I know I have a better chance to earn a scholarship in volleyball than soccer. I'm really glad I tried soccer, it's one of the best sports, but I knew I could be better at volleyball," said Buss. "We've also got a really good chance to do well this year because our team mostly consists of seniors."
Kayla Niederer will be the setter, but unlike the Mingus team, the Cowboys have flexibility at the position. Evans said Buss and Showers are also setter options.
The first game of the regular season the Cowboys go up against the Marauders, a good way for both teams to see how they stack up in a cross-valley game.