In just the program’s fourth-ever season, the Shadow Ridge boys’ volleyball team achieved an accolade that no other 6A Southwest team had done before: undefeated region champions.
“We had three goals this year,” head coach Joe Volkman said. “We wanted to repeat as region champions, make the state tournament, and be top 10 in the state tournament. We accomplished two of the three but going undefeated in the region was a huge hill for us to climb, being a new program.”
The Stallions (13-4, 6-0) entered this year’s state tournament as the 13 seed, and lost on the road to 4-seed Brophy 11-25, 14-25, 16-25 in the first round of the 6A state tournament on Friday night. Despite the loss, the back-to-back 6A Southwest champions hang their heads high, knowing they have a bright future ahead of them.
“We’re keeping the same goals for next season,” Volkman said. “Half of our starting lineup is freshmen. We’re super young. We’re only graduating one starter that’s a senior. Top 10 in the state, that’s our goal.”
Shadow Ridge’s season had some ups and downs. After starting the season 3-0 with three straight sweeps, the Stallions got swept three consecutive times and fell to 3-3. However, the team bounced back, winning 10 of their final 11 games, nine of those wins being sweeps.
It’s that resilience that Volkman said led his team to the region title.
“They never quit,” the fourth-year head coach said. “Take a look at our scores, and all of our scores are really close. We had games where we were up by four or five points, and then we kind of gave it away. But they just never quit. They kept fighting and fighting and pulling off the wins.”
Shadow Ridge has gutted out some tough wins this season. Even its sweeps were not always easy victories.
In an April 13 sweep over Rincon/University, the Mustangs won 26-24, 29-27, 28-26.
The following day, Shadow Ridge swept Sunnyslope 29-27, 25-19, 25-19.
In their May 3 play-in game against Desert Ridge, the Stallions clinched their second-consecutive state playoff berth with a 28-26, 25-21, 25-20 sweep over the Jaguars.
Getting through those experiences, Shadow Ridge’s players took pride in their mentality and their ability to lean on one another to get the job done.
“I just don’t want to lose,” said junior libero Cade Connolly, who recorded a team-high seven digs in the match against Brophy. “We want to be a brotherhood, and we want to support each other and have each other’s back.”
“We have a lot of key influences,” said sophomore outside hitter Everett Larson, who recorded four assists and a team-high nine kills against Brophy. “Our coach and our libero have a very positive effect on the court. Even when we’re down, oftentimes, they’ll pick our heads up for us if we need it, and that just keeps us in the game.”
Volkman has reinforced the team aspect to his players, emphasizing the importance of doing your best not just for yourself but for your team.
“We’re family,” Volkman said. “We support each other. It doesn’t matter who is and who isn’t playing. But if you get the opportunity to go out there, you just leave it out there and do the best that you can with no regrets.”
This season ends in another first-round defeat for the upstart Stallions as they look to re-tool for next season. However, the team is carrying a lot of momentum and optimism going forward into next season and beyond.
“We have a lot of really good potential coming in from our JV,” Larson said. “We just need a lot of hard work and the mentality to get better and improve. We want to make top 10 in the state tournament so that we can advance further and hopefully win state while we’re at it.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here