Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Tuba City hopes to take home the gold volleyball trophy

November 1, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

Tuba City Lady Warriors volleyball head coach Harlan Barlow said when volleyball begins in August, everyone's goal is to win a state championship.

Winning the volleyball state championship has eluded Tuba City for the past six years.

"We have gotten close or lost in the second rounds," Barlow said.

Barlow, with a veteran squad, said he hopes everything will change positively for the Lady Warriors, who begin state tournament play today.

"I think we've worked hard all off-season and summer season to get past those rounds and bring that state championship to Tuba City," Barlow said. "We took every game, every tournament game, learned and played like it was a state championship game."

Barlow said the Lady Warriors have definitely grown as a team.

"We learned from every game and every set," he said. "We have a good mixture of seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. I feel like we all learned to play the game on the same level. So far, I feel like the bond they have created is why we've been successful."

Entering the volleyball state tournament, Tuba City is 26-4 overall, including regular season play, tournaments and 3A North Regional Tournament action. The Lady Warriors earned the No. 2 seed in the volleyball state tournament bracket.

"We know that as we move up into the (state) tournament, we are going to see faster game, more competitive," Barlow explained. "It could be anyone's last game. No one is going to want to lose. We can't overlook anyone. In the state tournament, rankings don't mean anything. It depends on whose ready that day."

Tuba City garnered the 3A North Region regular season title, earning a first round bye and the tournament's No. 1 seed.

"It's a great feeling," said Barlow about the Lady Warriors' regular season title and regional tournament top seed. "It's an accomplishment you definitely work for .... to show that you've earned that conference champions' plaque and golden ball we have for our region. But to get there, it took work, including off-season training, summer ball, working out in the weight room, club volleyball and off-the-court team bonding. It's the commitment they've taken to win this. It's a great feeling because I know they worked for it."

Barlow said the 3A North Region is one of the top regions in the state.

"We have a tough conference," he said. "It has always been a Tuba City / Kayenta Monument Valley final, but our conference is tough. It could be anyone's game. It depends on who shows up that day. In the regional semifinal, Page beat Kayenta Monument Valley. That shows it could be anyone's game. Chinle didn't go down easy as well. We were ready. We were ready to play anyone. That's what we worked for in practice."

In the regional tournament championship, Tuba City posted a 3-0 win over Page.

"The key was to play our game," Barlow said. "What we have worked on all season. The biggest was our consistency. We knew if we were going to win, we had to play 'Warrior Volleyball'. We didn't focus on one team in particular. We just prepared for everyone. We were ready."

Barlow said he relies on club volleyball. He said club volleyball is a definite plus to the Lady Warriors volleyball program.

"With club volleyball, we are able to see the competition outside Arizona, outside our reservation and outside Tuba City," Barlow stated. "We see games where we do play those 6-foot-1 setters, 5-foot-10 Libero's and the experience is what they take and bring back. Also, you're getting better at your game when you're playing. Especially if you're playing together."

The starters for Tuba City include junior setter Gracie Henderson, sophomore outside hitter Mikeya Sheppard, junior outside hitter / middle hitter Camille Secatero, senior Libero Kreshauna Riggs, senior opposite Kyra Slim, freshman outside hitter / middle hitter Kayelani Maiava and junior outside hitter / middle hitter Jayda Chee.

Supporting members for the Lady Warriors include senior outside hitter / defensive specialist Brooke Tallsalt, junior setter Jadan Sixkiller, sophomore opposite / middle hitter Daveigh Bedonie, sophomore defensive specialist / Libero Gracee Curley and sophomore opposite / setter Chamique Nez.

Jayda Chee was the most honored Lady Warrior. Chee was voted 3A North Region Player of the Year. The 5-foot-8 Chee overwhelmed opponents as a middle hitter and her outside hitting.

"Jayda (Chee) is an amazing athlete," Barlow said. "She has grown so much in her game. She has been a starter since her freshman year. I feel like she has grown mentally, physically and to prepare for her junior season. She has a great attitude. With her leadership, she's able to be successful with the help of her teammates. She has that desire to win. She may not be 5-foot-10 or 6-foot-1, but she can definitely play with the best."