Sports Stories

Sedona Red Rock High School’s volleyball team struggled in its scrimmages on Saturday, Aug. 19, although it did not alarm co-coach Danni Barker very much.

That is because she knows what this year’s Scorpions are capable of. They are athletically gifted and experienced, and it is only a matter of putting it all together.

And as she put it, better to peak in November than before the season even starts.

Danni Barker, co-head coach of the Sedona Red Rock High School volleyball team, speaks to her players during a break in practice on Monday, Aug. 21. Barker and her husband Mic are in their first season as co-coaches of the team after spending the last eight as junior varsity coaches.
“They’re still learning but they’re having a lot of fun running these things, and once we get a couple of games under our belt it’ll be much smoother,” Barker said.

First-year co-coaches Danni and Mic Barker run a faster, more intricate offense. That combined with what was described as the team’s biggest block in recent years, and the team has high aspirations for 2017.

Those aspirations are nothing less than winning the 2A Central Region and Conference 2A state championship.

With athleticism on their side, according to Danni Barker, the Scorpions are easily capable of executing the game plan offensively and defensively. Now it is about smoothing out the edges and polishing it all off.

“It’s just a matter of connecting the setters and the hitters, and since they’re trying so many new things it’s harder because the timing is different with everything,” Danni Barker said.

In 2016 the team dropped 11 games in 19 non-tournament matches, and an even better defense is expected in 2017.
Seven seniors are gone due to graduation, but an experienced block of returners along with some prepared newcomers sprinkled in are ready for success.

Senior Chenoa Crans, junior Kelsey Woellmer and sophomore Morgan Fritz, among others, lead a front row that is close to closing the gap at the net. Should the ball get through the block, senior libero Liza Westervelt, a First Team All-2A Central Region selection a year ago, is in behind for the dig.

Offensively, a more-experienced Fritz and still-learning sophomore Amari Sonn are the pair of setters tabbed to be leaders and run the new arsenal of offensive options.

Senior Julia Koss along with sophomore Jacki King will be heavily used outside hitters, while Koellmer, Crans and junior Abigail Stevenson are additional weapons outside and in the middle.

The lone setback early on is the absence of sophomore Mary Westervelt at middle, who is set to be out for the next two months.

Where X’s and O’s do not come into play, a certain attitude about the Scorpions does.

“We’re really scrappy and aggressive,” Liza Westervelt said. “Trying not to let anything hit the floor.”
Senior Liza Westervelt hits the ball as senior Chenoa Crans, foreground, and junior Kelsey Woellmer, background, look on. The team opens its season at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, at home against Chino Valley High School.
“And on the offense too, if there’s a tight set then you have to be aggressive so the other player doesn’t touch it first,” King said.

In July at a three-day camp at Northern Arizona University the team played 35 sets and built upon its fundamentals as well as success running its plays. Danni Barker said that the team has mostly fine-tuned its serving and passing since last season.

Official practice started three weeks ago and the team has been working on building cohesion not just on the court but off of it, too. On Friday, Aug. 18, the team went on a hike to Cathedral Rock followed by a spaghetti dinner.

“I feel like we’re pretty close, the closest off the court we’ve ever been,” Liza Westervelt said.

This year’s schedule does not provide many chances for the Scorpions faithful to see their team defend its home floor. Only seven home matches are on the schedule, the first slated for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 29, against Chino Valley High School.

By the time the state tournament comes around the team will no doubt be battle tested. It will travel to two tournaments during the season to measure itself against top rivals like reigning state champion Horizon Honors High School and state runner up Chandler Preparatory Academy, who knocked them out in last year’s quarterfinals.