For the third time, West Valley Preps has seen enough boys volleyball in the 2021 season to put together a team of the top players in the West Valley.
Please note these positions may not be the exact role each player was in all season but it is a position they are listed for.
The teams include:
OH — Mason Henkels, senior, Mountain Ridge
OH — Jordan Shinaut, senior, Sunrise Mountain
MB — Tanner Russell, senior, Deer Valley
OPP/S — Karsyn Upton, senior, Liberty
S — Cory Poulos, senior, Nortthwest Christian
L — Kyle Andersen, sophomore, Sunrise Mountain
OH — Ryan Bugs, sophomore, Estrella Foothills
OH — Joseph Vakameilalo, junior, Cactus
OH — Spencer Worlton, senior, Liberty
S — Nathan Avitia, senior, Millennium
S — Aidan Volkman, senior, Shadow Ridge
L — Broc Hansen, junior, Northwest Christian
Underclassmen to watch: Cactus: Bradey Henige, Fr., OPP/MB; Centennial: Gavin Walker-Mason, Soph., L/S; Estrella Foothills: Noah Amenhauser, Soph., MB; Ironwood: Connor Monohan, Soph., MB; Kellis: Logan Diaz, Soph., S; Liberty: Dane Schneberger, Soph., MB; Millennium: Brendan Bartlett, Soph., OH/S; Mountain Ridge: Tegan Bernard, Soph., OH; Northwest Christian: Jack Hubbard, Fr., OH; Shadow Ridge: Kaden Cooper, Soph., OH.
Mason Henkels, senior, Mountain Ridge: The offensive force ended the season ranked #11 in Arizona ... in digs. That's a higher total AND resulted in a higher average per set than Andersen or Hansen - the two all West Valley Preps liberos. Thenb there is his primary role, which few players in the state did better. His 326 kills were third in the state and came out to an average of 5.5 per set, tied with Gilbert Williams Field senior Tyler Lai for tops in Arizona. He had some help, particularly from junior Ethan Montag-Caouette. But even the 6-7 middle blocker had nearly five times less kills than Henkels, who also finished with 44 aces, more than three times more than the nearest Mountain Lion. Simply put, no way Mountain Ridge even dreams of a 6A playoffs berth without Henkels.
Cory Poulos, Northwest Christian: The West Valley featured five elite setters this year. Upton shuttled between setter and opposite hitter enough to find him a spot on the first team. Avitia was also the Tigers' leading attacker and served as a hybrid player on the second team. Volkman barely gets the nod over Sunrise Mountain junior Kyle Berger, mainly because Volkman led the practically-new Shadow Ridge program into an unexpected 6A playoff berth. So what makes Poulos the choice as the "pure" setter on the first team and player of the year runner up? More than any of the other four, he organized an attack with many new players in new roles. Ben Strawn was the only attacker from 2019 back in the same role alongside Poulos. Yet the setter directed a much more potent offense than that pre-COVID season and made sure a team with very little experience together in high school or club play got the absolute most out of its talent.
Tate Abbott, Northwest Christian: Nothing in the recent history of Abbott or the Crusaders suggested a run to the state final this spring, even in the newly-created 4A Conference. Northwest Christian is one of the smallest 4A schools and had losing records in Abbott’s first two years before only playing three matches in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Yet here the Crusaders were, 20-0 and in their first state title game. It wasn’t to be against a battle-tested ALA-Queen Creek program that reached the 2018 5A finals and 2019 5A quarterfinals. But Northwest Christian overachieved to get to that point, knocking off top small school programs like Deer Valley and Tucson Salpointe Catholic to get there. Abbott forged a connection with his senior- and junior-dominated team that was almost like an older brother rather than an older man, and found out how best to use Hubbard — the missing piece.
Joe Volkman, Shadow Ridge: 6A boys volleyball in the Northwest Valley received a major coaching upgrade during the pandemic, with Richard Ebersole taking over Liberty in 2021 and Deb Moore running Mountain Ridge this year. Yet Volkman did something even more impressive in, technically, his third season coaching Shadow Ridge. His third season coaching Shadow Ridge was also the school’s third season playing the sport. And really, it’s only the second year of boys volleyball at this and the other Dysart Unifed School District schools. Yet the Stallions finished with a 14-5 record and qualified for the 6A playoffs. Not much more needs to be said.