AJ Volleyball Outlasted by Desert Edge, Poston Butte
By Daniel Dullum
Navigating a tough early schedule, Apache Junction volleyball played a spirited five-game match against visiting Goodyear Desert Edge on Sept. 5. In the end, it was too much of Joi Harvey for the Lady Prospectors to handle in a 3-games-to-2 defeat.
Harvey, a 6-foot-4 early commit to Air Force Academy, dominated the decisive game five with four kills and a block. That, along with a serving run by Mikayla Sparks that included four aces, helped the Scorpions prevail 26-28, 22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 15-1.
“I knew if we could get our big middle (Joi Harvey) going, we had a really good chance,” Scorpions Coach Brandon Sparks said. “But we struggled passing and getting the ball to her, but in that fifth game, we didn’t.”
“Our struggle all season has been trying to get her the ball. The setter is learning to just keep setting her. The team knows that when she’s hot, we’re all hot, and they’ve accepted that.”
“Even if the set wasn’t there, (Harvey) would find it. Her timing was completely dead on and we just could not find a way to stop her,” AJ Coach Regan Roach said.
Apache Junction used its ability to frustrate hard-hitting teams to win games one and two.
“It was fun to watch them play,” Roach said. “They (AJ) came out with the intensity they needed. In set three, they had a little funk, but they came back. In game five, we just couldn’t stop (Harvey) and no matter how we ran our defense, she just bounced it.”
Lady Prospectors setter Lucia Kimble said, “We felt pretty good the first two sets. In the last couple of sets, we just made some mistakes, but overall, I think that’s the best game we’ve played so far this season.”
On trying to stop Harvey, Kimble said, “She’s definitely a strong hitter, especially the way she could drive that ball! It’s definitely cool playing against a girl like that because you get practice playing against big hitters like her. It makes us better.”
In game four, the Lady Prospectors battled back from a 20-15 deficit to break game point on a pair of Kimble service aces, tying the game at 24-24 with a 9-4 run. Brooke Gordon’s kill put AJ up 25-24, but a blocking error on match point let Desert Edge back in at 25-25. The Scorpions forced the tiebreaker with a block by Taylor Brown and Paige Pontius’s service ace on game point.
In game five, Desert Edge asserted itself with a 12-0 run and closed out the match with back-to-back kills by Pontius.
“(Apache Junction) had a couple of servers that made it tough on us and some balls bounced their way. That’s going to happen,” Coach Sparks said.
“Our energy started dropping when they started gaining points on us,” Kimble said. “But overall, I still think we played a great game.”
Gordon and Mady Roach each had six kills for AJ, Kimble had eight service aces and 19 assists.
Cameron Krueger led the Lady Prospectors with thtreee blocks,, with two each from Gordon and Addison Cooksey. Morgan Farsolas had a team-high 22 digs.
“If we play like this throughout our region and conference play, we’ll be OK,” Coach Roach said. “We’ll get through it and face them again.”
POSTON BUTTE WINS
In the third of three matches in three days, Apache Junction dropped a hard-fought non-region battle with San Tan Valley Poston Butte.
The Broncos swept AJ 25-21, 25-16, 25-23, improving to 4-6 overall.
Broncos Coach Belinda Quesada said, “AJ has always been tough for us, they don’t let anything fall, and my girls are just able to battle back.
“After our tough loss on Tuesday (3-games-to-2 to Phoenix Thunderbird), we had to regroup and pull it together, and play as a team again.
“My back row girls are finally reading things correctly, my hitters got going and I have some height this year, and it helps that they know how to time the ball and actually know how to block the ball.”
Throughout the match, Apache Junction could get defensive stops, but was unable to forge a sustained run.
Coach Roach said, “I feel like we dragged the fifth game (against Desert Edge) into today’s game. We started to find our groove in the third set, and we just couldn’t pull it together.”