Wednesday’s sweep over the Central Bobcats gave the Ironwood Eagles boys volleyball team their eighth win in their last nine matches and their 10th win of the season, eclipsing their win total from last year.
Then the traveling show then went to Surprise Thursday night and swept Willow Canyon to jump to 11-4.
Head coach Damon Mays has been proud of his team’s success so far.
“We’re starting to get into more of a playoff mentality,” Mays said Wednesday. “We know we’re in playoff contention and we have a legitimate shot.”
Mays took the lead job in February of last year. The second-year head coach served as an assistant for four years under previous head coach Marcy Robb, whom led the Eagles to a state finals appearance in 2016.
Mays said that time spent under Robb gave him some pointers to use moving forward as a head coach.
“I learned a lot from her,” Mays said. “The biggest thing was to let the guys have fun but be hard on them when you need to. You have to have the perfect balance. You can be really intense but at the same time giving them that positivity and showing them that you care.”
That care for his players has been felt by every guy on the team.
“He’s been in the industry long enough that he knows how to deal with players," junior outside hitter Connor Monahan said. "Both mentally and physically, he knows how each player works. He’s able to work with that, he knows what our capabilities are, and he wants to reach us.”
Although this is Mays’ first stint as a varsity head coach, he’s had experience as a head coach previously, leading Ironwood’s JV squad during his time under Robb and with Momentum Volleyball Club, a club volleyball organization based in Peoria.
Mays currently serves as the boys club director and has been coaching with Momentum since 2018.
“That experience with Momentum has definitely helped me carry over into high school,” Mays said. “There’s a lot of competition within club volleyball, and you get to compete against teams from all over the nation. You’re getting to see the top of the top competition, and that translates well when you transition into high school volleyball.”
Mays’ mentality has been clear from the day he took the head coaching position at Ironwood: commitment and dedication is key. He understands that his players may have other responsibilities or other sports even to focus on, but he still emphasizes the importance of showing up all day, every day.
“With boys volleyball being somewhat of a newer sport, for a lot of these guys, it’s their second or third sport," Mays said. "So I want it to be fun, and I definitely want the guys to have fun, but we’re also here to work and to compete. We’re here to do the best that we can and to take it seriously.”
These instillment of morals has helped his players become better versions of themselves, both on and off the court.
“I’m learning more of how to be there for my team and to pick them up when they’re down,” Monahan said. “I’m also learning how to be a reliable player who you can always be able to go to. It just helps push through those tough times and be able to slow things down and just play.”
The Eagles currently sit at the 7 seed in the 5A conference. which would be the program’s highest seeding since conference realignment back in 2017. However, Mays knows that moving forward, the team has to remain vigilant to maintain their winning ways.
“Every single point matters,” Mays said. “Every single set matters. Every single match matters. We’re really trying to get better and execute on the small things and stay disciplined on the small things. We also really have to stay consistent. That’s one of the main differences between a lot of wins and a lot of losses. Discipline, consistency, and execution.”
Michael Burgess is a student in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
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