The high school volleyball team had a packed opening week of play, with two regular matches on the road and a two-day tournament boasting six additional competitions. The local ladies lost both of the regular matches and went 1-5 in tournament play.

The volleyball squad is scheduled to host Eastmark this evening, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m. in the high school gym. On Tuesday, Sept. 14, they are scheduled to travel to Valley Christian High School to take on the Trojans at 6 p.m.

AZ College Prep

Taking on AZ College Prep on Aug. 31, head coach Olivia Long said she and her squad saw a lot of growing pains in the season opener. Long noted this is her first year coaching and the team’s first competitive match following a 2020 season that was cut short due to the pandemic.

“Despite [that], the girls fought hard for that game and didn’t give up,” Long added.

The Falcons fell to AZ College Prep 25-6 in the opening set, but Long said she was happy with her team’s response to such adversity.

“Any team, after that, would struggle, but the next two sets the Falcons held their own,” she continued.

The local squad still dropped the final two sets of the match, but in far closer showdowns. AZ College Prep won set two by a score of 25-18 and set three by a score of 25-21.

Payson

Match two on the week saw the Falcons taking on the team from Payson, which Long described as an “electric” competition. She said the stakes felt high going into the game, as Payson is a long-running rival of Fountain Hills. Add to that the fact Long and her JV coach, Emma Moody, are from Payson, and there was definitely a strong desire to see the Falcons come out on top.

“The girls started off strong and won us the first set,” Long continued. “They were able to really capitalize on Payson’s missed serves. After that, Payson came back swinging and took us down in sets two and three.”

Long said that meant “game over” for a lot of spectators, but her Falcons were not willing to give up.

“They made the adjustments necessary and won set four. The game boiled down to the last 15 points and it was electric. Anyone in the dome that night would tell you what an exciting and intense match it was.”

Despite the Falcons’ all-out effort, Payson proved victorious in the fifth and final set, besting the Falcons by a narrow 15-12.

“Nonetheless, it was an awesome game and I’m just as proud of them as if they had won,” Long said. “We’re really looking forward to the re-match against Payson at home on Sept. 23.”

Wolves Classic

The week was far from over for the Falcons, as the local ladies next hit the road to take part in the Wolves Classic, a two-day tournament that saw them playing a handful of opponents from across the state.

“After the first day of pool play we were placed in the championship bracket the next day. The Falcons lost to West Point before besting Buckeye. Next came a chain of losses to teams from Safford, Show Low, Odyssey Institute and Safford.

“The tournament successes were reflected more in the progress of our players rather than on the scoreboard,” Long said. “After our first game on Tuesday, we set goals for ourselves that included improving our serve receive and covering the block at the net better. Both of those things I watched transform on the court over the week.

“We also faced a setback when one of our setters, Bella Garman, sprained her ankle on Wednesday, taking her out of play for the rest of the week. Our girls adjusted quickly and junior Titleist Patrick stepped up big to replace Bella as setter, opposite senior Soliel Smith.”

Given the team’s size and relative inexperience, long said she feels the Falcons have played incredibly well so far.

“The biggest highlight for me has been that they are able to adjust when asked to, make improvements on the court during play and they don’t give up,” she added. “It’s going to be an exciting season and we can’t wait to get our home games kicked off with [today’s] match against Eastmark High School.”