A cacophony of voices can be heard in the old gymnasium at Mountain View High School, forging relationships that’ll guide the Lions’ forward on the volleyball court.
The players on the stained hardwood provide the figurative backbone of the Lions’ girls volleyball team, under the leadership of second-year coach Jose Robles.
Robles, who guided the squad to a 19-17 record and a berth in the 5A state playoffs in 2018, is looking to this fresh-faced collective to get the team back to the postseason.
For Robles, the key is to success this season rests in the team’s ability to build camaraderie during their preseason workouts.
He knows the team’s road to the 16-team playoff is far from easy, losing a host of veteran players to graduation during the offseason.
Robles is confident that this year’s team, while lacking the teamwide size of last year’s roster, can contend with anyone on their schedule this fall.
It’s a tall task, with the team’s regular season kicking off against 4A power Salpointe Catholic on Tuesday, September 3.
“We’re not as big as we were last year, but we’re a lot more defensively focused this season,” Robles said. “We have some of the best defenders, I think, in Tucson, and I have a lot of confidence in that part of our group.”
Much of that onus rests on the shoulders of returning players, like co-captains Destiny Pundt and Jaelin Reeb.
Both Pundt and Reeb know how tough it will be to replace last year’s senior class but say they’re ready for the task ahead.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” Reeb said. “I know that we’re not the most athletic or the biggest team this year, but I think that we’ll be really consistent and really defense-oriented, which will definitely help us.”
Dominating the defensive side of the game and limiting costly mistakes on serves and attacks is a key focal point for Robles and his staff.
The second-year coach knows how important each aspect will be, in one of the most difficult divisions in the state.
“We’re definitely going to focus a lot on the mental aspect of the game, not shutting down if the team gets on a run with us,” Robles said. “I think we struggled a little bit on that. We let a team run eight points on us before we finally regained focus and came back. That’s a big thing we’re going to work on.”
Pundt said the team has a lot more confidence in their ability to compete with anyone in the state, with last year’s success providing them with proof that their work is paying off.
The senior outside hitter and defensive specialist said the team has shed its underdog mentality from a year ago, which allows them to thrive in the heat of competition.
“I think that we go into every game knowing that we’re just as good as any other team,” Pundt said. “I think going into it thinking you’re an underdog kind of like makes it harder on yourself so just going into it with a neutral mind helps even it out.”
That mindset will come in-handy, as the Lions look to contend for a title in the 5A Sonoran region.
Robles believes the region, which includes longtime powers like Empire and Rincon/University, will test his players’ cohesiveness and resolve.
He’s condiment that they’ll rise to the challenge, however, with a cast of veteran players that rise to the level of competition.
“This core group that we have, they’re ready,” Robles said. “They understand how much they have to do to succeed, and they have set high expectations for the season.”