Arizona Region of USA Volleyball

12's Region Championships 2008

Sparks Realize Vision,
Top AZ Sky for Region 12AA Title

Arrowhead 12 Sparks Coach Vicki Turrell was in the midst of the perfect storm. Coachable kids, supportive parents and a shared vision of excellence.

On May 3rd, it came to fruition as they topped their season long nemesis, the AZ Sky 12 Black to team to take the 12’s AA division.

“This team worked hard at every practice and were completely coachable, all of the young ladies had a wonderful attitude.” Turrell lauds. “When a substitution would take place, they would encourage the young lady taking their position. The young ladies on the bench were always in the game mentally and emotionally. And the parents let the coach coach and let the players play – this is a great concept to follow as a parent.”

This confluence of circumstances the likes of which any team would relish, but Turrell loved seeing her Sparks realize a goal they had set months before.

“All season long, we battled with AZ Sky Black for the number one position.” Turrell recalls. “We played hard and just could not complete the task though.” She began to work on having her team visualize winning the Region tournament.

“We would talk about this at practice before we left – visualize getting their medals and t-shirts that would have Champions on them. I had several girls speak up – ‘I had my dream coach, we got the medals’. ‘I can see it too, coach.’ I would talk to them about seeing themselves complete the contacts correctly – the pass, set, hit. We would also talk about taking advantage of the free ball – pass, set, KILL!”

“On the day of Regionals, we did exactly what we came to do.” Turrell says. “We were focused and knew we wanted to play against AZ Sky one more time. After each match throughout the day, we would say ‘one step closer to AZ Sky.”

Coach Turrell’s Sparks didn’t let her team put obstacles in their path to their gold medals. “This team is pretty short compared to the majority of teams that we have seen throughout the season.” She says smiling. “Several times, the girls would ask me, ‘Are they really 12?’ So, I would ask a few and sure enough they were 11 or 12 and pushing six feet. We were little but we were scrappy, full of heart, and desire to do well. It seemed like every weekend, it was another David and Goliath story.”

Turrell also had, as a coach, a standard for performance she wouldn’t deviate from. “My philosophy simply stated is to coach the whole person for integrity, sportsmanship, and work ethic. If I can instill this, then the athletes will do well not just in the sport but in life. I coach the young ladies to make choices on the court and to learn from their mistakes.”

To that end, Coach Turrell knows that the future of the Sparks depends on the girls themselves. “The future for this group could be extremely bright. The question is ‘IF’ they choose to do what it will take to grow and mature as a volleyball player in the game of today. The majority of the game is now in preparation in the off season. It is not just some people picking up a game in their backyard. It is dedication, sweat, and a work ethic with drive to see the next level.”

Something Coach Vicki Turrell and her team can look forward to, even envision it.

AVA wins 12A Gold Division,
Region sees more gold on the Horizon

The Arizona Region 12A Gold Division match came down to the AVA 12 Baden and the East Valley 10 Pink Lightning. And while AVA won the match, Arizona Volleyball will be the winner for many years to come.

AVA’s coach Caitlin Simpson said, “The thing that was so special about my team was their ability to bounce back from an upset.” She added, “The season was a little rocky at the beginning but towards the end all the little things came into play and the girls got it together.”

And got it together they did, topping East Valley. But the Pink Lightning have nothing to hang their heads about. They went into the bracket the lowest seed, and came out on the losing end of the Championship match!

“All season we worked on fundamentals and having fun.” East Valley Coach Jen Leo said. “We did a lot of throwing over the net and overhand serving. We worked a lot on the individual skills of passing and setting and hitting down balls and then put them together in combinations, pass, set; set, hit; and eventually pass, set, hit.”

Leo thinks the fact that the whole team practiced every skill paid off at Regionals. “I think the difference was made at Regionals because over the course of the season every player was given opportunities in every practice and every match to work on her skills—the kids knew what to expect, how it felt to be on the court and play every position and how it felt to go back and serve. I think the girls brought a lot of confidence in themselves to the tournament because they love to play and they want to perform and they had practiced a lot of game-like situations. We saw some great ball pursuit and some great talk among the players at Regionals, so their individual and team growth really came together at the right time. We always asked the girls to play hard, focus and have fun and I think they did that on May 3.”

Coaching philosophies at the younger age groups make a huge difference. Coach Simpson states eloquently, “My coaching philosophy has always been to make the sure the girls are having fun but at the same time that they are learning and participating and grasping the skills they need to become successful volleyball players.”

Coach Leo echoes those ideals. “Our coaching philosophy was to teach the players how to play the game the right way; serve overhand and use pass-set-hit combinations or 3 hits as much as possible.” Jen adds emphatically, “It’s not just about winning, but playing the game right and improving individually and as a team. Everyone learns all skills, everyone serves overhand, everyone plays every position, and everyone works hard and supports her teammates. And we know everyone makes mistakes, but it’s what you do after your mistake that really counts.”

Despite the team successes, the Region seems to be the big winner here, reaping a group of talented athletes who seem to have grasped the game at such early ages, and more importantly, seem to love it.

“Some of the girls will be moving up to the 13's next year, while some of the girls who are still a little to young will be playing on the 12's again.” Simpson says of her AVA squad. Leo’s team, made up of only 10 year olds, is well ahead of the learning curve.
“ This group of girls has a very promising future.” Leo states. “I know they will continue to learn the game and love to play. We had some great kids with athletic talent and I’m looking forward to helping them and watching them grow as they continue to play. They are all very happy, healthy, energetic and fun young ladies with very supportive families, so as long as they love to play I am sure they will all be successful. I hope to see them play club and at their respective schools over the next 8+ years!”

And the Region couldn’t agree more…

May 2008

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