While other fall sports like football and soccer will be making their debut this season, the Heritage Academy-Maricopa volleyball team is the relatively old program, having competed a year ago. Using the gym at the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Heroes got those beginner jitters out early, and it’s showing in the enthusiasm they have now.
The team went 3-9 in its inaugural season, but coach Robin Daniels said they might have over-performed expectations considering six of her players had never played volleyball before, and most of them were either freshmen or eighth graders.
“I think we learned how much potential we have as a program,” Daniels said. “Most of them were 13 or 14 years old, so we have four or five more years of growth with those same girls. It was a little discouraging to lose, but I think it gave me a lot of excitement for what’s to come.”
Now, Heritage has its own team, which should help the team out a lot. Daniels said last year they only got about a quarter of the practice time most teams get because they had to share the Ak-Chin gym with so many other people. Now they get to stay on campus.
“It was like choirs of angels singing,” Daniels said about walking into the Heritage gym for the first time. “I’m a PE teacher too, so last year I was teaching under the stairwell in the hallway. So just to have a place to put equipment is great.”
This year’s team sees a junior and senior join the ranks, as well as a couple players who played club ball during the offseason to add some more experience.
They were also the first team to start practicing after the COVID-19 shutdown orders were lifted, bringing in higher numbers and more enthusiasm to just play volleyball.
“I had parents texting me since May,” Daniels said. “I got word the week before that we could start on July 15, so I texted everybody and I couldn’t believe the excitement. I told them we might have to play with masks, but they didn’t care. They just wanted to play.”