Sometimes the stars align for a team. For Desert Vista volleyball, everything seemed to fall into place for the 2014 season. They have a star-studded roster which include six players who have committed collegiately, two players were named to the Under Armour All-American team, a coach who recently eclipsed the 500 win mark, and a stellar regular season that led to them being ranked second in the nation according to the Maxpreps computer rankings.
“It’s not like we had a lot of up and down. We had a great season. Everything was moving up for the state finals. This is what they wanted and got it done,” Desert Vista head volleyball coach Molly West said.
The Thunder knew the path to their first state championship wouldn’t be all rainbows and unicorns, though. After their state quarterfinal win against Mountain Pointe, West described their upcoming matches as “war”.
Second-seeded Hamilton was battle-ready for the state championship.
Led by Washington State commit McKenna Woodford, the Huskies won the first set of the match and it seemed like they had a firm grip on the match. The Thunder were able to swing momentum back in their favor as they took the next two sets.
The Huskies weren’t done, though. They jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the fourth set and eventually won the set 25-21.
In the do-or-die fifth set, the Thunder were locked in, winning the set, 15-5, and taking the state title.
“We always said we were going to win state. We were kind of ruthless in the first three rounds, and today it took us a little longer, but we won,” junior outside hitter Hailey Harward said.
“That’s what happens when you get to the playoffs. It’s a different animal,” West said. “We’ve had a phenomenal season, they’ve done a fabulous job that I think it would have been crushing to not have done this.”
The team’s depth helped the Thunder overcome the slow start. Having the flexibility to shuffle players throughout the lineup created a huge advantage for Desert Vista this year and for years to come.
“We are so deep in every position and that’s what makes us so awesome. In practice, we’re constantly being pushed so to come out on the court and be so deep is awesome,” Harward said.
That depth brought Desert Vista it’s first girl’s volleyball title and Coach West her 500th win.
“This is by far my best team, and what a way to finish,” West said.
West’s best team features seven seniors, so changes will be coming for the Thunder, but West and her team are in a good position to repeat next year with a strong core of juniors returning, including Harward, who is committed to play at Long Beach State, future Fordham Ram Olivia Fairchild and Florida commit Rachael Kramer.