‘New Chaparral’ eager for first playoff appearance since 2007

As coach Jay Renneker sees it, the "old Chaparral" girls volleyball team would have wilted under pressure situations.

Jaeda Allen is proud to be part of what her coach calls the "new Chaparral." The junior outside hitter embraces five-set marathon matches.

"When we go five, it comes down to who wants it," Allen said. "We work so hard that we have to want it. If we give up, that means we don’t deserve it."

Allen has helped Chaparral win three Northeast League matches by 3-2 scores this season. It’s a big reason the Cowboys (11-12, 10-4) are in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Chaparral, the No. 2 seed from the Northeast, plays Southeast No. 3 seed Silverado (15-8, 10-4) in a Sunrise Region quarterfinal at 2 p.m. today at Green Valley.

"Old Chaparral would quit some, not fight back as much," Renneker said. "The fact that they’re not willing to let go of games that they want to win, it’s a different feel."

Junior libero Cheyenne Huntsman said the Cowboys have grown from last season’s 5-18 record, thanks largely to improved focus and a willingness to shake off mistakes.

"Our coach told us about peaks and valleys, and how we need to try to make our valleys as small as possible," Huntsman said. "We can push ourselves and fix it right away. We’re there for each other, and if we make a mistake, we can fix it quickly."

Another key to the turnaround has been the wiry Allen, who has emerged as one of the area’s most dynamic hitters this season.

Allen totaled 53 kills in the Cowboys’ final three matches of the regular season, all victories. She has put down at least 20 kills four times this season.

"With her play at the net, she’s a monster," Renneker said. "She’s a big swinger, hits a really hard ball and really enjoys doing it. She knows her role and definitely likes to carry it."

Renneker has emphasized a sense of family, and players have taken his message to heart.

"We’re all a family. If someone goes down, we all pull each other up," Huntsman said.

The Cowboys’ resurgence on the court has coincided with the Clark County School District’s efforts to revitalize academics at the school.

Junior opposite/setter Katie Oliveira called the breakthrough season "really rewarding."

"The whole mindset, we’ve learned a lot together," she added. "Our goals and everything are completely different from what they were last year."

Renneker has made previous coaching stops at Coronado and Western, and said his current Chaparral team reminds him of his best squads.

"I’ve had some great teams in the past, Coronado and Western. For the first time at Chaparral, I see in this team what I saw in those teams," the third-year coach said. "I don’t know if Chap in the past was willing to work like we do now."

Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.

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