You’re not going to get a lot of lame coach-speak out of Jill Harris.
Pahrump Valley High School’s girls volleyball coach is enjoying a ton of interest in her program, has dozens of young girls in town learning the sport and has a lot of players back from a team that tied for the Sunset League title last season. So expectations should be high, but most coaches temper them when speaking for the record.
But with Harris, you get this: “I plan on winning it outright,” she said of the league crown the Trojans won in 2016 and 2017. “I see no reason why we can’t.”
The Trojans are coming off a 17-12 season in which they went 11-1 in the Sunset, tied for first place with Mojave, which won the title on a tiebreaker. While not winning a region title since 2007, the Trojans have been in the playoffs every year but one since 2000, including three of the four years they competed at the Class 4A level.
But this year could be special.
The signs are already there. A scrimmage last Saturday against Mojave, SLAM Academy and Somerset-Sky Pointe went well, Harris said.
“The scrimmage gave us a lot of information to work with,” she added.
Then there is a fact the team did not lose a huge number of seniors and drew a large number of reinforcements for the new season.
“I have 43 girls out,” Harris said. “It’s higher than usual, but all summer I was higher than usual. We were running anywhere from 20 to 40 girls all summer in open gym Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
But it’s not just quantity, the coach said, but the quality she sees that has her confident heading into the new season.
“With the young girls that came all summer long we noticed a lot of improvement,” Harris said. “We’re starting off a little further ahead than what we were last year, I think.”
All of the players who were supposed to return for the Trojans are back, and there are no injury issues at the moment.
“I think we’re going to be stronger by the end of the season than we were last year,” Harris said.
And that’s coming from the coach of the team that dominated league opponents other than the rival Rattlers. While both Mojave matches went five sets, none of the other Sunset League matches did, with the Trojans winning those 10 matches by a combined score of 30-2, including six consecutive shutouts to close the league schedule.
That was the roll they were on heading into the region tournament, where they dispatched Sky Pointe in four sets before getting blanked by eventual Class 3A state champion Boulder City.
And Harris thinks this year’s team will be stronger.
“Maddie Hansen has stepped up,” she said. “She was a defensive specialist last year, and she decided she wants to set this year. Nicky (Velazquez) and Kalea (Whitney) both are doing really well. I’ve got some athletic girls.”
Harris expects Mojave to again be the strongest competition in the Sunset, although she said Western has some talent as well. “You just never know who’s going to move in and move out,” she said of the Trojans’ league rivals. “Vegas is so transient you just don’t know.”
That’s not usually the case in Pahrump, which means some of the young kids Harris saw this summer likely will be on her team someday.
“For my young kid camps I had 66 girls going into third grade through going into freshman year of high school,” said Harris, who ran a volleyball camp concurrent with a basketball camp run by Trojans girls coach Bob Hopkins in June. “We use that as a fundraiser for us, and we raised just over $2,000. It was the week after school got out. Bob did his stuff in the morning, and I did mine in the evenings.”
More than 40 kids on the roster and almost 70 on their way up has Harris almost giddy about her team’s prospects, but until the Trojans actually take the court nobody knows for sure what will happen.
“We’ll know more this weekend when we go up to Yerington,” she said. “We went to a tournament there last year and liked it. It’s a lot of teams we don’t see normally, so it’s a fun tournament.”
After opening the season at that tournament in Yerington, the Trojans will face Moapa Valley on Wednesday in Overton. Their first home game will be Sept. 4 against SLAM Academy before opening league play one week later at home against Democracy Prep.