Willow Canyon emphatically wins postseason return

Willow Canyon volleyball players celebrate a point during their Oct. 25 5A volleyball play-in win against Avondale Agua Fria. [Courtesy Willow Canyon Yearbook]

Jennifer Jimenez
For West Valley Preps

The first post-season win in 10 years officially in the books for the Willow Canyon High School varsity volleyball team after they captured a 3-0 win over Agua Fria in Thursday’s 5A Conference play-in match.

These teams met twice before this season, with Willow Canyon on top each time.

Willow Canyon head coach Matt Overfelt said two years ago when he took over the program the team finished 7-15 and last year 19-23. This year they are 21-11 and headed to their first state playoff game Oct. 30.

“This year we felt like we had a good core of seniors coming back and a good mix of young players coming up that we felt the sky was the limit as long as we worked hard and put in the time and effort,” he said. “I think we’ve done that.”

Senior captain Abby Cullotta said her team talks about winning the most points and during the moments when things are not going their way the team bands together and talk about how to fix their game.

And while the first game they won 25-12 highlighted by an 8-point run, the second game presented a challenge.

Agua Fria earned their first lead of the game on a kill from Kasiah Johnson up 8-7 after the middle block left a small opening for the ball to drop. Willow Canyon struggled with their passing, giving up three points on two tipped balls that fell and two mistakes, but a time out killed the momentum for Agua Fria.

“Sometimes in our passing after one or two poor passes we start to tighten up and try too hard and during the time out I remind them we needed to relax and take a deep breath and pass how we know we can,” Overfelt said.

Cullotta agrees saying their team is a united front and with the positive energy around their unit the team can bounce back and get back to where they need to be.

Senior Kaylee Kriwer said the seven seniors on this year’s team are very close and trying to make the most out of their last season together.

“We have a mentality that results don’t define us and as long as we keep trying and giving it out best our coach will be satisfied,” she said.

Willow Canyon won game two 25-21. They tied it at 14 and continued to rally.

Madison Danielson put up the pass to Cassidy McCoy with a quick set up the middle to Cullotta who hit through the block for the point. The Wildcats adjusted and continued to set up quick sets up the middle, which Agua Fria had no answer for.

“I feel like we are better for a fast-paced match and as long as we keep our energy up and don’t play to other team’s levels and stay close we play the best and are successful,” Kriwer said.

The tournament run for Willow Canyon will put them up against talented teams and they will have to utilize their greatest attributes moving forward.

“Our middle attack is very strong, and we like the quick set to anyone coming in and even with Abby who was a middle blocker two years ago and we moved her to the outside and she really runs that quick attack really well,” Overfelt said.

One of the big takeaways from the play-in match is Willow Canyon’s ability to be productive on defense. Overfelt said his team played five straight matches heading into this match and yesterday was their only practice.

It was there they worked on finding the seems in the defense and swinging the strong line or cross court shots.

“Defense is the one thing we work on the most and individual defense is what we focus on,” he said. “Being still and playing the ball we see coming off the hitter or wherever the attack comes from and be ready to plays what’s in front of us.”

Cullotta said it’s an amazing feeling to win their first post-season match saying they have been working since freshman year and have been part of the growth in the program and credit the coaching staff as well.

“This really is the greatest accomplishment,” she said.

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