For Perry girls volleyball, life’s a beach – and then you’re indoors

Moments after hoisting the AIA beach volleyball state-championship trophy in May, graduating senior Halle Razo – now a freshman volleyball player at New Mexico State – said Perry’s indoor volleyball team had to follow suit.

“It feels so amazing,” she said, brushing off sand from her jersey after the team had dog-piled on the court in celebration, “and now hopefully the girls in indoor can use this and have a really good season next year.”

Perry’s indoor team has reached the playoffs in each of coach Fred Mann’s prior five seasons, but never has won the state championship.

However, the Pumas, who were 13-3 after a straight-sets home win over Mountain Pointe, Mann’s former team, on Sept. 19 believe that their success on the sand motivated them to get over the hump this year.

“I think because we’ve been successful once we feel like we can do it again,” senior Matea Suan said. “I think mostly, though, that we focus on indoor because we’ve been so close. It’s been a goal in this program for so long, so we’re really going for that because that would sort of complete everything.”

Mann said he is unsure how much the beach team’s championship carries over, as not everybody from spring competes indoors, and Arizona is traditionally stacked with quality indoor teams –Xavier Prep and Corona del Sol won the last two indoor state championships.

Mann said those girls who competed on his beach team developed unique skills that have played out in the gym.

“Defensively, it’s really good for you. Typically, our sand players are really good players there, with their movement and reading what the opposition’s going to do,” he said.

Suan, whom Mann said primarily plays beach volleyball, competes with the indoor team to develop more leadership skills and compete with her friends. She now leads the team in digs.

Suan said sees vast improvement on the indoor team.

“Our girls are scrappy, and you have to be able to get to all sorts of balls. You can’t really specialize in just one thing on the sand,” she said.

Perry lost several of its starters from both the indoor and beach teams to graduation in 2018, but has 10 seniors with varsity experience on the current roster.

Mann said he normally promotes roughly six underclassmen to varsity that he projects to be eventual starters so they may gain experience at the top level. That way, even the youngest girls have knowledge of high-quality competition.

Thinking about last season’s playoff semifinal loss to Xavier Prep, Suan said the team is motivated to avenge it against the team that has become a bit of a rival for the Pumas.

However, Mann said if that is true, it has not been vocalized much.

“I haven’t really heard that talk this year about last year’s playoffs. I don’t know if we’ve started thinking about playoffs or that part of the process yet, because we’re still trying to figure out exactly what our team is and build,” he said.

Perry soon moves into 6A Premier play, a section that could realistically see each of its five teams reach the playoffs in late October. Playing tough opponents on a nightly basis will be a struggle, but one that could pay off in experience with difficult matches before the playoffs.

Suan said the team is among the most talented she has played on.

“Sometimes we start doing badly and it’s easy to start giving up,” she said, “We’re working on keeping our heads up and being together to get through tough matches.

“I think we’re extremely talented, but most especially we’re together. We really believe we have the team to do it.”