Michael Owens has a vision for the volleyball program at Canyon del Oro High School that utilizes the team’s blue-collar image to achieve great things.
Owens, who enters his third season as the Dorados head coach, saw pieces of that potential a year ago, when CDO went 19-6. They finished second in a stacked 4A Kino region to Salpointe Catholic, before losing to Goodyear’s Desert Edge in four sets in the opening round of the state playoffs.
Fast-forward 10 months, and Owens and his team are back at it, with a roster that can contend for a state title, at least according to the coach himself.
“We always want to be better than you were before. So, we definitely want to see improvement,” he said. Owens will lean on an experienced roster to do just that, with senior Talyna Tisdale, junior Katie Call and sophomore Abby Whatton leading the charge.
Call, who will guide the team’s attack at the setter position this fall, is confident that the Dorados are ready to compete.
“I felt that we played really well, especially because it was unexpected, we all kind of thought in the beginning of the season we weren't going to be very good, but then played super well together as a team,” she said. “And Michael kind of trained us in a way that none of us had been trained before, and so I think that really benefited us and going to the playoffs.”
The Dorados’ 2019 season kicks off against intra-district foe Amphitheater Thursday, Sept. 5, followed by matches against Cholla, Nogales and Flowing Wells in the non-region portion of the schedule.
Whatton is confident the team will get off to a good start this season, thanks to the return of so many talented players, like Call and Tisdale.
“It's definitely a boost of confidence going into this season, especially considering since we have a lot of returning players from last year,” Tisdale said. “We lost three seniors, which was a big loss, but I think we're doing a good job of filling those roles with new people.”
That steadfast confidence is a direct result of the continuity that comes from having the same coaching staff in place for several seasons, according to Owens.
“I think that when you try to establish anything, making the culture will kind of continue year to year and you're trying to build from that time,” he said. “So, I think that the biggest shift or the biggest thing that's happened is just the fact that I can come to the court now and everyone understands what the expectation is.”
Those expectations have done little to discourage returning starters like Tisdale, who believe the team’s preseason workouts have picked up where last season left off.
“I definitely think our team bonding efforts have helped, because if everyone’s separated on their own little island, we don’t really work together,” she said. “If we’re all working together, we all play our own part, and it’s really good when we actually get on the court together.”
When asked what he enjoys most about his job, Owens pointed to the established history of grinding it out at the northside high school.
Such a mentality has taken the Dorados to the sport’s highest echelon in decades past, and can do so again, at least if Owens has anything to say about it.
“What I really enjoy, is just the type of kids we get,” Owens said. “They come in with a real blue-collar mentality. They love to work hard and are not afraid of a challenge.”