CASA GRANDE — How have the Florence Gophers been one of the most consistent volleyball teams in Pinal County the last few years? Clara Bednarek is the answer.
Florence had help from other good players along the way, including this season, but Bednarek stands out as the top player in Pinal County and is the 2019 PinalCentral Volleyball Player of the Year. Bednarek was also a first team all-county selection last year as a junior.
Bednarek, a 6-foot middle and outside hitter, finished the season with 455 kills, which ranked 11th in the state and second in Class 3A, according to MaxPreps. She also ranked No. 2 in Class 3A with 107 blocks.
The senior captain led the Gophers to a 27-18 overall record, including a 10-7 mark in power point games. Florence qualified for the 3A state playoffs as the No. 19 seed but lost a five-set heartbreaker to No. 14 Holbrook in the play-in round.
Bednarek was also named the Player of the Year in the 3A Central region.
Leadership is a key characteristic of the PinalCentral runner-up for Player of the Year, Amanda Klotz of Poston Butte. Klotz played all four years on the varsity for the Broncos, and she led this year’s team to the 4A state playoffs.
Klotz had her best performance of the year in a 4A play-in round game against Phoenix St. Mary’s, but like Florence, Poston Butte lost in tight five-set match. Klotz led the No. 24 Broncos, a big underdog to the No. 9 Knights, in what was nearly a massive upset.
Klotz had a season-high 17 kills to go along with seven blocks and 12 digs against St. Mary’s. She ended the year sixth in Class 4A with 83 blocks.
Finishing an outstanding high school career, Klotz also made the PinalCentral Volleyball All-County Team as a first team selection in her sophomore and junior seasons.
Other players on the All-County first team are setter Michelle Giddens of Florence and libero Ana Arbizo of Florence and outside hitters Haley Loftis and Madyson Roach of Apache Junction.
Giddens, a senior, was a first team all-region selection, recording 373 assists, 255 digs, 80 kills and 49 service aces for the Gophers. Arbizo, also a senior, was a force on the back row for the Gophers. She was named the 3A Central Defensive Player of the Year after amassing 424 digs, fourth-best in 3A.
The dynamic duo of seniors Loftis and Roach provided plenty of hitting power for the Prospectors.
Both were first team all-region selections in the 4A Black Canyon, and Loftis took home a boatload of awards, winning the region Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. Her 2.5 kills per set tied for 25th in Class 4A, but she was a do-it-all player for Apache Junction.
Roach backed that up by smacking 2 kills per set and 2 digs per set. She was also a PinalCentral first team all-county selection last year, and she made second team all-county as a sophomore.