Pre-season volleyball opens with a tough test

    Some high school volleyball teams have been waiting years to get
into the field of 36 teams in this weekend’s Mesa Westwood tournament –
and will
probably have to continue sitting on the waiting list even longer.  The
tournament, generally considered the best pre-season tournament in
Arizona, began in 1992 with just eight teams and has since expanded to
36 teams – still not big enough to accommodate all the teams interested
in playing.
    This year it will feature the top 5 ranked teams in 5A-I, including defending state champion Xavier Prep.  In addition, defending 5A-II Centennial HS is in the field… and, oh yeah, also defending champions Sunnyslope HS (4A-I), Seton Catholic HS (4A-II) and Thatcher HS (2A).  How’s that for quality competition to get you ready for the season?
    The field of athletes will include Stephanie Preach, setter from Xavier Prep who was last year’s Arizona Republic 4A-5A Player of the Year, and Chanel Brown, the Class 1A-3A Player of the Year, who is Valley Christian’s threat at setter/outside hitter.  Both are seniors.
    No. 2 (5A-I) Desert Vista will counter with Kyle Hartman and Betsi Metter; No. 3 Corona del Sol will pin their hopes on the shoulders of a couple of seniors, Bethany Jorgensen and Cassie Ronda; and No. 4 Gilbert has replacements for their graduated stars in Alyssa Dwyer and Macey Gardner, who are stepping up their game this season.
    Thatcher HS is an ideal representative for the small schools, bringing a load of talent with Rachel Orr, Chelcy Motes, and Heather Lucero
The Westwood has always been a measuring stick of sorts, to find out
where the favored teams match up.  By Saturday evening, following the
final games in the single-elimination Gold Division, all 36 teams
should know whether they’re ready for the rest of the season.