Bishop Gorman’s girls volleyball team takes a few minutes before every practice to reflect on its recent success.
The Gaels have won three consecutive state championships and four of the past five in the state’s highest classification, including a three-set sweep over Centennial in last year’s inaugural Class 5A title match.
“We make it a point that we owe it to the 30 years of players who have come through the program to respect it enough to give our best in practice,” Gorman coach Gregg Nunley said. “It’s also up to us to leave the next group with something we bettered, so that’s something we think about every day.”
The Gaels have three pillars from last year’s team returning — outside hitter Leilia Toailoa, middle blocker Ashley Duckworth and libero Tatum Thompson, who were among the state’s best at their positions.
They need to replace setter Caroline Edgeworth, and there are two juniors and a freshman vying for that spot. Nunley said he could use a 6-2 system at times to have two setters on the floor instead of the 5-1 in which there is one primary setter.
“It just depends on the day as to what we’re going to do,” Nunley said. “I’m glad to have options.”
While Gorman has had dominant teams in the past few seasons, last year’s title almost didn’t happen.
The Gaels trailed Faith Lutheran two sets to none in the first round of the 5A Southern Region playoffs, but rallied to win and then dropped one set the rest of the tournament.
Faith Lutheran coach Amy Fisher told her team to let that loss burn throughout the offseason and provide motivation.
“You never like to lose, but I think watching Gorman go through the rest of regionals and win state had the girls pretty fired up,” Fisher said. “They felt they could have been at state. They gained a lot of experience from being up 2-0 against a really good team.”
The Crusaders hope to be more consistent and find their way into a better seed. They were 1-4 in the first round of league play before going 4-1 in the second half.
With seven seniors and the entire starting lineup returning, Fisher is confident in her team.
“Any time you have consistency from year to year, you should be getting better,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting the chemistry rolling again, not peak too soon and go do something special.”
The usual suspects — Centennial, Coronado, Shadow Ridge and Palo Verde — should have strong teams again.
Palo Verde has similar motivation to Faith Lutheran after winning the Desert League title but dropping a 3-1 decision to Centennial, the No. 4 seed from the Mountain League, in the first round of the Southern Region tournament.
“Overall we had a good season and a disappointing end,” Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke said. “We played one of our worst games of the year at the worst time. That didn’t sit well, and as young as we were, that put a chip on our shoulder.”
Players to watch
— Ashley Duckworth, Bishop Gorman — The junior led the state with 250 blocks and hit .503 last season.
— AnnaMaria Ramos, Basic — The senior had 420 kills with a .438 hitting percentage, 366 digs and 98 aces last season.
— Angelina Sayles, Coronado — The senior had 290 kills, 171 digs, 37 aces and 25 blocks last season.
— Leilia Toailoa, Bishop Gorman — The junior led the state with 491 kills and hit .375 last season.
— Naomi White, Palo Verde — The senior had 219 kills with a .539 hitting percentage and 100 blocks last season.