AJHS Makes Program History with Black Canyon Title, Earns Automatic Playoff Berth
By Daniel Dullum
Volleyball has been a varsity sport at Apache Junction since the earliest days of Title IX in the 1970s. In the four decades since, the Lady Prospectors have never won a region championship – until last Thursday.
In a match completed in 48 minutes at the AJHS gym, the Lady Prospectors swept Scottsdale Coronado 25-15, 25-14, 25-8, clinching the 4A Black Canyon Region title in the process.
“That feels awesome,” AJ Coach Jake Heermans said. “It’s amazing. It’s something we’ve worked for all season. We’ve talked about it a lot, and it’s great to see it come to fruition.”
The road to a region championship didn’t come easy for Apache Junction.
“We’ve had our share of adversity,” Heermans said. “It’s fun for us to talk about playoffs. It’s something we’ve wanted for a long, long, long time for this program.”
Defensive specialist Jessica Sigler, the lone 12th grader on the AJ roster, celebrated Senior Night by returning to her old position of libero.
“I’m very glad I finally got to play libero again,” Sigler said. “I enjoyed it so much. It was a great way to go out for my last home game. We practiced it on Wednesday and I wanted to play there all season. I remembered what it was like last season, and I really, really enjoyed it.”
One of Sigler’s goals this season was to help
“It meant a lot to me,” Sigler said. “I’m so glad we won our region. And we’re going to get our banner, just like our soccer banner. It’s going to be awesome.
“I’ve played volleyball since sixth grade, varsity for three years, and now going to state. It’s the best way to go out.”
The Lady Prospectors (22-18 overall, 8-1 region, ) are finishing the regular season on a roll, winning seven straight matches since losing to Northland Prep Academy on Sept. 23 in the Payson Invitational. AJ’s regular season concludes Tuesday at San Tan Valley Combs.
“Things are going very well for us right now,” Heermans said. “We have good chemistry on the court right now, and it’s taken a while to figure out where to put people and how it should go. But it’s starting to click a lot for us.”
Like his team, Heermans is also excited about the first volleyball banner ever to be displayed in the AJHS gym.
“I’ll pay for the expedited shipping,” Heermans said. “I hope it gets here soon!”