Sports Stories

For most people, a typical week starts off difficult and gets easier as the days pass.

The script was flipped for the Sedona Red Rock High School’s volleyball team last week, which won its three Central Region matches across four days; the difficulty increasing one after the other.

“It was amazing. We had to win [against Northland Preparatory Academy],” Red Rock co-head coach Danni Barker said. “I think it’s exciting and I’m happy because the girls proved they could compete.”

Things began on Tuesday, Oct. 3, when the No. 10 Scorpions [11-1, 5-0] saw off Verde Valley rival Camp Verde High School in three sets [25-6, 25-6, 25-15].

Two days later, on Thursday, Oct. 5, they hosted Paradise Honors High School, a tough defensive team. Red Rock had to work much harder to earn another sweep [25-19, 25-20, 25-19].

A solid crowd, including a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rex and pink Care Bears, were on hand at the pink out match for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Seniors Reaston McManus, Wyatt Ross and Javier Pacheco, from left, react to a point during the match against the Panthers.
“We sustained our energy today, we had really good energy,” Barker said. “The crowd really helped a lot .... this is the first tough match we’ve had at home and the crowd really showed up for us.”

It was the second time in 10 days the two faced off; the Scorpions won the first time around 3-1. They knew it would be tough against the Panthers, whose senior libero Katylyn Jarman leads a defense that dug many of the best attacks they faced.

Jarman and company brought it the second time around, too.

After going back and forth, Red Rock used a 5-0 run to open a 16-9 lead, the final two points by way of a kill by sophomore outside hitter Jacki King and a service ace by senior outside hitter Julia Koss.

Koss curtailed more Panther momentum with a kill, and two Panther hitting errors sealed game one.

This time around the Scorpions changed their tactics, avoiding hitting toward Jarman and more toward its shorter middle blocker, junior Brooke Adams.

“They’re shorter than us and I think we utilized that to our advantage,” Barker said. “Last time we played them we were hitting our line right to the libero over and over and over. This time we hit more angle to take the libero out of it.”

Game two played out similarly. Red Rock got up early. Paradise Honors came back to lead, but never by more than a point, and a Scorpion run in the latter, crucial part of the set gave them the upper hand.

In the meantime, the teams battled through a few long rallies. Jarman and sophomore outside hitter Chiara Fuller dug some of the best attacks. And the Scorpions responded with their own, including a pancake by Koss.

“It was really frustrating, but I think we did a good job of getting it again and controlling the ball when they got it back over,” King said. “So it wasn’t too bad but it was definitely frustrating.”

But this one ended in spectacular fashion, as senior libero Liza Westervelt hit three straight service aces to follow up a King free ball kill. Westervelt had four aces in the set and five total.

In the third and final set Red Rock was down 5-3, but junior middle hitter Chenoa Crans nabbed a kill and King an ace to knot it up.

Koss and junior right side Kelsey Woellmer combined to open a 14-9 lead.

The Panthers got as close as 14-12 off of consecutive solo blocks. Then Koss, Woellmer and King combined for six of the last eight points to earn the win.

“It was nice, it was definitely better feeling than beating up on someone, we were actually working hard that game and practicing stuff,” Westervelt said. “We were super pumped up [about] this game and the home crowd really helps a lot because we’ve had all away games.”

Sophomore setter Morgan Fritz had 25 assists, Koss nine kills and King eight.

Finally, things culminated at Northland Preparatory Academy at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6, when most people were off work and ready for the weekend. In fact, the Scorpions did the most work they had since their third match of the season, on Sept. 5, playing maximum sets for only the second time.

They came away with a 3-2 win [28-30, 17-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-11] over the No. 20-ranked Spartans. And it pushed them atop the pile in the Central Region.

The biggest difference, Barker said, was that the team began to play smarter. And with anger, spurred on by Westervelt and Koss, especially after going down two sets to zero.

It was a hostile environment in the Spartans’ small gym, whose fans were celebrating homecoming. Once the Scorpions blocked them out, they started the comeback.

“They haven’t had to turn it on before, the tournaments before didn’t mean as much. They knew it was huge, they had to win,” Barker said.

Tied with Red Rock for first is No. 9 Glendale Preparatory Academy, its opponent on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Results were not available at press time, but a game story can be found in the Friday, Oct. 13, edition of the Sedona Red Rock News.