We’re mere weeks away from the start of one of the most exciting sports in the Southern Arizona high school scene: Girls volleyball.
We’re blessed with a litany of top-notch squads in Northwest Tucson, with Ironwood Ridge, Marana and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy qualifying for last year’s state playoffs in their respective divisions.
There’s also a cavalcade of talented players at all six of our high schools in these parts—with Canyon del Oro, Catalina Foothills and Mountain View all possessing a plethora of talent this fall.
We’re 26 days from the official start of the volleyball season, with plenty of must-see matches and eye-popping plays happening on the hardwood courts of Tucson.
Here are a few names that will stand out among a talented fray this volleyball season:
10. Jaelin Reeb, Mountain View sophomore setter
Reeb is a crucial returning player for the Lions squad that struggled last fall, with the rising sophomore racking up 469 assists, 91 digs, 18 kills and 16 aces during her freshman campaign. Expect the sophomore to play a crucial role in the Lions’ attack this fall, as first-year coach Jose Robles looks to get the squad back to the playoffs in Division 5A.
9. Caroline Parker, Catalina Foothills junior
Parker is coming off a sophomore season where she picked up 58 kills, 17 aces and an eye-popping .226 hit percentage for the Falcons. She’ll be entrusted with doing more of the same this fall, as they team looks to rebound from a disappointing 10-20 regular season last year. Expect coach Nicolas Thiltges to rely heavily on the junior, as she’s the Falcons’ most experienced player coming into the season.
8. Sydney Baumgardner, Ironwood Ridge senior middle blocker
Baumgardner and fellow senior Katie Birtcil were a two-headed tour de force for longtime Nighthawks’ coach Bill Lang last fall—with Baumgardner picking up 39 kills, 25 blocks and 21 aces for the Nighthawks. Expect the 5 foot 9 inch rising senior to be a one-woman wrecking ball in the middle of the court for the team this season, blasting opponent’s shots with ease.
7. Lilian Kelley, Canyon del Oro senior middle blocker
Kelley played a key role for Coach Mike Owens last fall, picking up 25 kills and 22 blocks from the middle blocker position, while keeping up an impressive .333 hit percentage. The 5 foot 11 inch senior will have to carry the load with teammate Eve Pearson for the Dorados this fall, after Zeleya Loop, Jade Romine and Amy Briles graduated. Don’t be surprised if the duo give opponents fits this fall, as they’re among the most talented front line players in the state.
6. Sofia Fetsis, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior
Fetsis is coming off a gaudy junior season where she racked up 243 kills, 204 digs, 54 aces and a .206 hit percentage for the Lions. The rising senior is a key component of a Lions team that’s coming off a 25-6 regular season and playoff appearance in Division 3A, and should wreck havoc once again this fall.
5. Sammy Deakins, Marana senior setter
Deakins is one of the most talented setters you’ll find in Arizona, coming off a junior season where she picked up 426 assists, 64 digs, 54 aces and 24 assists. She’s a key reason why the Tigers went 17-12 a year ago and 7-1 in regional play. There’s no reason why she can’t one-up her numbers this year, giving the Tigers a major threat in the center of their rotation.
4. Summer McDonough, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior
McDonough’s statistics from last year jump off the stat sheet, with the rising senior racking up 406 kills, 52 aces and a .283 hit percentage. McDonough will be the main force for the Lions this fall, as they try to one-up last year’s 25-6 campaign under Coach Dana Wahl. McDonough and Fetsis have the potential to be the best one-two punch in the region, and are must-see talent each time they toe the hardwood for the Lions.
3. Eve Pearson, Canyon del Oro senior outside hitter
Pearson is a fearsome outside hitter for the Dorados, coming off a junior season where she earned 93 kills, 9 blocks, 7 aces and a .219 hit percentage for the Dorados. The 5 foot 8 inch rising senior will be entrusted with providing the type of muscle and precision on the outside that has guided the Dorados in years past.
2. Grace Ehler, Marana junior middle hitter
Ehler is coming off an eye-popping sophomore campaign for the Tigers, where she picked up 230 kills, 33 blocks, 7 assists and a .221 hit percentage. The 6 foot 1 inch middle hitter is the kind of tough, talented middle of the rotation player that championship teams are built around, and should have a year to remember for coach Jennifer Ball this fall.
1. Katie Birtcil, Ironwood Ridge senior outside hitter
Birtcil is your quintessential outside hitter, coming off a junior season where she smashed opponents into a fine dust—with 259 kills, 161 digs, 27 blocks, 25 aces and a .212 hit percentage for the Nighthawks. She’s going to be a key component for Lang and company this season, as Ironwood Ridge looks to get back to the Division 5A state championship for the first time since 2014. Expect the tall senior to provide the type of power and finesse that strikes fear in the heart of those unfortunate enough to be on the other side of the hardwood this fall.