Winslow repeats as champs, beats host Scouts
The Winslow Lady Bulldogs needed an extra set to clinch the title over the host team at the 2nd Annual Window Rock Lady Scouts Volleyball Tournament.
The Bulldogs won 22-25, 25-13 and 25-19 on Saturday during the nine-team, two-day tournament.
“It was amazing to repeat as tournament champions,” Winslow coach Julie Thomas said. “The match with Window Rock was intense. We knew that we had to get some blocks.”
The longtime Bulldog coach said Window Rock used an efficient attacking effort at the net and they had to be on their toes to swing the momentum in their favor.
“Window Rock is very smart on offense and we had to be ready,” she said. “We served well and hit the ball hard. Shaelene Singer had a great offensive and defensive match.”
Singer, a senior, is one of three starters returning for the Bulldog team that made the 3A state tournament last season.
“I did graduate my main setter, a middle blocker and a libero, but my three main offensive players came back,” Thomas said.
The two others are senior middle hitter Brynlee Barris and junior outside hitter Jaci Gonnie.
The 2021 state tournament was Winslow second consecutive trip and they made their stay worthwhile, getting past the play-in game and advancing into the 16-team bracket.
“We did go down to Phoenix for the state tournament, and it was awesome,” Thomas said. “I coached for Winslow for 10 years and I didn’t for six, and this is my fourth year back.
“We’ve gone to state before when I last coached, and since then we hadn’t been down to state,” she added, “so it’s been quite a while.”
The team earned the No. 12 seed and they took fifth seed ALA-Gilbert North to four sets.
“It was exciting for them to take a team that high ranked to four games,” Thomas said. “It was fun and it got them all hungry. They want to go back down there and win another match.”
With the success they had last season there is some added pressure to meet and, perhaps, exceed those achievements.
“I feel like expectations are definitely really high, especially for us,” Barris said. “And we expect a lot out of our very young team. We have a lot of freshmen and they’ve been stepping it up, but we definitely have high expectations.”
The Bulldogs are working with a new setter in senior Janessa Meyers. And although she didn’t start, Meyers did play on the varsity team.
“We’re adjusting with her,” Gonnie said. “I mean, she’s really good and I like that she always asks us how her sets were. When we communicate it really helps us out.”
Winslow will play in one last tournament at this week’s Snowflake “Be Like Nat” Invitational.
After that tournament, the Bulldogs will resume 3A East Region play at Snowflake on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the Thomas-coached team came up short to Blue Ridge in three sets. The scores were 25-15, 25-20 and 25-21.
“They did beat us, but it was a pretty good game,” Thomas said. “We have some things to work on and we hope to do better when we meet them up again.”
“That game went pretty bad for us,” Singer chimed in. “We weren’t playing to our full potential. I’m pretty sure when we play them a second time we’ll give them a good game.”
As for the conference race, Thomas said Snowflake and Blue Ridge are the teams to beat in the six-team league that includes Holbrook, Payson and Show Low.
“Snowflake and Blue Ridge are the top two teams and we’re the No. 3 team in our region right now,” she said.
Barris said the league is going to be very competitive, but she feels that they can compete with the likes of Snowflake.
“I think they lost a lot of their starters from last year but Snowflake is always good,” she said. “They’re a powerhouse, and they’re always good, but I think we definitely have a chance with them.”
“Blue Ridge and Snowflake are gonna be tough, but we just want to play confidence and get better throughout the season,” Gonnie added.