Veteran Red Mesa squad eyeing deep playoff run
JOSEPH CITY, Ariz.
First-year Red Mesa volleyball coach Sean Gray inherited a veteran squad.
The team is using last season’s experience as a catapult in hopes of making a much deeper run to the 1A state playoffs.
One year ago, Red Mesa won a playoff game before losing in the state quarterfinals.
“We got taken out by Joseph City,” Gray said.
That very team ended Red Mesa’s run at the Joseph City volleyball tournament on Saturday as the host squad won in two sets. The scores were 25-12 and 25-16.
“I feel like we could have gone farther in this tournament,” Red Mesa senior Shaniley Dugi said. “We could have pushed harder.”
Gray agreed while noting that their performance on Saturday is not a true characterization of his team.
In fact, Red Mesa is currently ranked No. 6 in the latest Arizona Interscholastic Association statewide polls.
“We’re a veteran team,” Gray said. “Five of my starting six are returning players from last year. They were juniors last year, but they didn’t get as much playing time, but everything has been really good, so I like their progress.”
Gray believes his squad has what it takes to extend their stay at the upcoming 1A playoffs, which starts on Nov. 1 with the top eight seeds hosting first round games.
“I think our team can go pretty far again,” he said. “I think they have the ability to do it. They work hard every day in practice and in every game, so I think we can go further than what we did last year.”
Gray has seven seniors on the squad. The outside hitters are Tianna Bradley and Dugi while Aubrey Redmustache is the team’s middle hitter.
Gray said setter Abigail Begaye is the glue of the team and libero Alexa Poyer plays an important position by having first contact most of the time.
“They all play an important part,” he said. “We’re a team, and they’re doing their jobs as far as passing and communication. They’re all good hitters.”
At 8-1 overall and 2-0 in 1A North play, Gray said his team is playing at an optimal level.
“So far, the girls are doing what they’re being asked to do,” he said. “They’ve met my expectations, and I like that they’re working together.”
“I’m happy with how the season is going,” Dugi chimed in. “I think we can go far in the playoffs. We just have to set our minds to it and continue to work on our skills.”
Red Mesa has a pair of upcoming doubleheaders to improve on its state seedings.
On Friday, they travel to Rock Point, the defending 1A state champs. Next week they’ll host the St. Michael Lady Cardinals on Oct. 20.
“They set the bar for being the state champs,” Gray said of Rock Point. “I have a lot of respect for what Kyle (Arthur) has done with his program. When we play them it’s always good competition.”
At the Joseph City tournament, Red Mesa was swept by Rock Point in bracket play action.
“We started off slow as the sets kept going, we started to progress,” Gray said. “We’re hoping to extend the match on Friday. We want to compete with them, and I think we the have the ability to do that.”
“We definitely want to beat Rock Point,” Dugi added. “Red Mesa has never beaten Rock Point, so I feel like this is the year we can do that.”
Dugi did question why Friday’s game is a doubleheader since the two schools are only separated by 29 miles.
“We’re so close together,” she said, while noting that her team would have liked a home match with Rock Point.