Liz Rupp

Deer Valley freshman Liz Rupp goes for a spike earlier this season. (Photos by Ronald Morrison)

With the final two matches of the season fast approaching, Deer Valley’s beach volleyball team is aiming for a return to the playoffs.

“Our program has grown tremendously because we have players that return each year, and we have new talent from our strong indoor program that play beach as well,” head coach Kathryn Coleman said. The team was formed just three seasons ago.

“As a coach (and parent), I understand that they play club volleyball during our spring season, so my philosophy for the team is to play competitively while having fun. So far we have been able to maintain this balance.”

The Skyhawks, who lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, were launched into this season with high hopes, but Coleman admitted the team has continued to struggle.

“It’s always a challenge for us to work around the player’s club schedules,” Coleman said. “They travel during the spring to qualify for Nationals, so we either need to play without the full team or reschedule our matches.”

The Skyhawks have been led by junior Savannah Davis, who has been on the team since its inception, and sophomore Carsyn Schuch.

“Since we try to keep the same pairs together, we have seen a huge improvement in the player’s overall play,” Coleman said. “They get better every match. We have a young team with quite a few freshmen who have been competitive against bigger schools with minimal experience, so I anticipate great things in the years to come.”

The Skyhawks are seniors Daiya Jovel and Bree Rudolph; juniors Kaitlin Brown, Davis, Savannah Padilla and Klaydia Poliscchk; sophomores Ashlynn Comp, Schuch, Avrey Dunn, Katie Foran and Allison Howard; and freshmen Alana Barajas, Taylor Chadwick, Emee Fellens, Lily Gentz, Gabby Gloria, Santana Marquez and Liz Rupp.

The girls opened the season with a sweep of Valley Vista. They then rolled off three matches with Coleman calling the turning point in their season was when they defeated Chaparral 4-1 March 27.

“I think that the turning point for us this season was the section win against Chaparral,” Coleman said. “We won 4-1 and most of the games went to three sets.  Our team really came together for this match and the pairs got better from this experience.”

With two matches remaining this season (April 11 against Desert Mountain and April 17 against Mountain Ridge), Deer Valley is ranked No. 11. The top 16 make the playoffs.

Section IV has six of eight teams ranked in the top 11 as of April 8, with Xavier at No. 1, Boulder Creek at No. 4, Sandra Day O’Connor at No. 5 and Sunnyslope at No. 8. Deer Valley has lost to three of those teams (Xavier, O’Connor and Sunnyslope).

Coleman said the program’s growth has been better than expected. With numerous players returning each season, it has also inspired more new faces to try out for the team.

After qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in their second season, Coleman said the Skyhawks’ ultimate goal is always the postseason, but also much more for the growth of the team.

“Qualifying for state playoffs was a really good experience for us, as it validated how strong our program is becoming,” Coleman said. “Sending our top pair was good, too. Beach volleyball is exploding all over the state and I am glad that we were able to start the program at Deer Valley. My goal will be to continue growing the program and players fostering the love for the game.”

Deer Valley will complete the regular season with a home game against Desert Mountain on April 11 and an away game at Mountain Ridge on April 17. The playoffs begin April 23.