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Beatty volleyball team eyes return trip to states

Beatty High School volleyball players Adrianna Gill and Carmen Stephenson agree on a lot of things: The Hornets look to be headed for a good season, they have a lot of confidence in their teammates, and they are excited to get the season started.

But they disagree on one thing. What team are you most looking forward to playing?

“Alamo,” Stephenson said quickly. No explanation necessary, as Pahranagat Valley is a powerhouse in pretty much everything and rolled to the Class 1A state title last year, struggling only against Tonopah.

Speaking of the Muckers …

“Tonopah,” Gill answered. “We’re finally going to beat them this year.”

Beatty has not beaten Tonopah since Gill’s freshman year, when the Hornets won twice, including in the region tournament, and all three matches went five sets. Since then, the Muckers have won five straight, four by 3-0 scores.

Which might be why coach Steven Sullivan agrees with Gill.

“Tonopah,” he said. “They’re not in our league, and of course they were a tough team last year. I think their playoff game with Alamo (a 3-2 Pahranagat Valley victory) should have been the state game. She lost some players and I’m curious to see what they have, but she’s been doing a great job with that program.”

There will be other tests for Beatty during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

“We play the Pahrump JV,” Sullivan said. “It is JV, but it’s a bigger school, so hopefully that will be a good match. And we have more tournaments than we’ve had in the past. We go to Yerington, Battle Mountain and Trona tournaments. I like going to the Yerington tournament because I get to see a lot of the northern schools. I’ll see Owyhee, Wells, Smith Valley, Virginia City. It gives me kind of a playoff look in case we do make it. And the North is just more competitive in my opinion.”

But Gill and Stephenson firmly believe the Hornets are ready for whatever challenges are thrown at them.

“The team is looking really good this year, and I’m really excited to see where we’re going to go,” Gill said. “I have a lot of faith in the team this year, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to go really far.”

Stephenson was even more enthusiastic about their chances.

“We’re going to be amazing,” she insisted. Everyone’s growing and improving so much. We’re going to be really, really good.”

The Hornets are usually pretty good, said Sullivan, and that should not change this year.

“Last year we were third in our league and the year before that we were third, but the three years before that we went to the state tournament,” he said. “We’re not a perennial powerhouse, but we’re never down, either. We’re always toward the top of the league, and that’s our goal. I’m not saying we’re going to be like Alamo, but I want teams to say, ‘Crap! We’ve got to go play Beatty.’”

The Southern League could be extremely competitive this season, as Sullivan sees Liberty Baptist and Green Valley Christian as potentially tough opponents, while he said Indian Springs has most of its team coming back.

And, of course, there’s Pahranagat Valley.

“Alamo is going to be down,” he said. “Well, what they consider down, so if a team can get it together and really build I think this may be the year a team can pick off Alamo, as long as they get mentally past the concept.”

After graduating only one senior from last year’s 7-7 team (5-2 in the Southern League), Sullivan has three seniors and six juniors among his 19 players, and there is a reason he had Gill and Stephenson speak for the team: They are vocal.

“She’s the loudest girl out there,” he said of Gill. And Stephenson is “loud, she’s always positive. I expect their attitude to lead the team, not only with their skills because they are two talented ladies, but just the way they carry themselves.”

Gill said her strengths are hitting and serving. “One time I got 13 aces in a row,” she said. But she takes to heart the leadership Sullivan said she has.

“I like teaching the young ones,” Gill said. “I like teaching them young so they can grow up as seniors and be leaders. And I want them to teach the younger ones when I’m gone.”

While Gill played during middle school, Stephenson has only been playing organized volleyball since she arrived at Beatty High School.

“In middle school, I would go to the park and see my friends play, and it looked like fun so I would go and just mess around,” Stephenson recalled. “They taught me a lot, and as soon as I got to high school I heard volleyball, and automatically I went, ‘That’s me. I need to play.’ ”

Stephenson said her best assets on the court are digging and blocking, although “blocking’s not my favorite.” But both of them seem very prepared to do whatever they need to do to get the Hornets back into the state tournament.

“It’s hearing the whistle blow, feeling the adrenaline, and then knowing it’s game time,” Stepehnson said about what she loves about the sport. “Let’s do this. Let’s pound it in their throats.”

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