Monsoon softball program makes steady progress

Valley Vista's Thalia Lara fields a ground ball for an out against Westview on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

The turnaround of Valley Vista softball is still in the early phases.

But the program has more hope than at any point in its history, thanks to some landmark wins.

Valley Vista is 8-7 in the regular season after Monday’s loss at Boulder Creek. The team is 11-10 overall.

If the team keeps up that pace it will earn its second winning season — after finishing 15-13 last year. And if the Monsoon can remain in the top 24 rankings of 6A, the first postseason game in school softball history beckons.

“Making Valley Vista softball history and making it to playoffs — Valley Vista has never been to the playoffs — would be an honor. I’m pretty sure all the other girls would love to go out with a bang like that,” senior Thalia Lara said.

More than a play-in game appearance, though, the goal is to bring stability to what has been a chaotic program.

Stephanie Kingsley is in her first year as the head coach after helping out with the freshman in the past two seasons. She is also Valley Vista’s third varsity coach in three seasons, and seventh in the program’s 11 years.

“We did have a lot of change and changes in philosophies. I felt that wasn’t fair for the girls,” Kingsley said.

With each change players heard different things from different coaches.

This year, Kingsley has made a point to giving the kids ownership of the program. That included letting the senior class work to leave legacy and set up traditions.

“One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do is let them own the game and work relationally together. I’ve noticed in the change of coaches is that there can be a lot of issues trusting each other as a result,” Kingsley said. “And I really was working for them to get together and own their own game and have each others’ backs.”

Kinsgley said Lara, fellow seniors Dani Sears and Alicia Anaya, and junior Kristin? Deal have formed the team’s leadership core.

And their goal is to have a fun year while putting down roots for the future of the program.

“Out of all four years I’ve been playing at the varsity level, this is the best team with the best communication. We’re all getting along and talking to each other, and getting to know each other better,” Lara said.

The stability now goes beyond the varsity, as Kingsley noticed how change at the top can trickle down to lower level programs.

Lara, and the other varsity players, work with younger girls playing their position. And they serve as a guide for more than softball technique.

“Sometimes the younger players will listen to the older players more than they listen to me. I really value their input. Each of them has a “sister” in the lower levels that they communicate with and give tips and encouragement. I’ve got a lot of girls who are hungry coming up,” Kingsley said.

Lara’s season highlight may not sound awe inspiring. But it points to how far the program — which has taken a back seat to Shadow Ridge and Willow Canyon locally — had to go.

“We had never beat (Tolleson). And to go 2-0 (against them) was big,” Lara said.

Kingsley said her eye opening moment was the 10-6 victory over Mountain Ridge in the second regular season game.

The Mountain Lions may be rebuilding, but that program has been on a different level in quality from Valley Vista for the last decade.

“Mountain Ridge was a big one for me. Especially because it was the second game of the season, officially. We’ve had a lot of great moments,” Kingsley said.

Valley Vista’s LaLexus Robertson dives in an attempt to field a ground ball against Westview on April 10 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

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