Mountain Lions feel they have the right stuff

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MARANA - Last year the Mountain View girls volleyball team was on to big things when injury struck. Outside hitter Lauren Hall went down with an injury and the Mountain Lions had to temper their expectations.

Even without one of their top players, the talented Mountain Lions were still a very talented team. Cassidy Watkins stepped up to help fill the void left by Hall's injury and the Lions advanced to the state tournament.

This year just getting to the postseason will not be enough for Mountain View. They return the bulk of their team and have their sights set on sticking around the playoffs from more than one game.

Hall and Watkins return for their senior years and will be joined by fellow outside hitter Courtne McIntosh. The duo may be among the top players in southern Arizona.

"The three seniors may be among the best three players in the city," said head coach Rick Ellis. "They can play defense, hit the ball a ton and hate to lose."

Just as Watkins was called upon to fill in for Hall a year ago, she may fill a huge role this year. She could find herself moved to setter, replacing graduating senior Casey Heflin. Heflin was vital to the team's success a year ago and Watkins will really have to step up to replace her.

The Lions will also get a boost from another senior, Daria Perisic rejoins the squad after recovering from an ACL tear last year.

The Lions will also miss seniors Vivian Tinsley and Kirsten Henry. Henry was the team's libero, while the Pima-bound Tinsley was the middle hitter for the squad.

Junior Dani Courtney should see her role expand, and Ellis feels the lower level teams could produce some quality players.

The only real worry for Ellis is making sure he gets a consistent effort from his squad night in and night out.

"We need to work on being consistent and learning to play at a high level every game," he explained.

The already strong coaching staff will also see a new face. Matt Dyck, who coached at Tucson High, joins the Mountain Lion program. Ellis admitted that Dyck was a "stud coach" who had great ties to the local club programs.

"He's a real steal for us," Ellis said.

The Mountain Lions held open gyms all summer and began voluntary workouts in mid-July, something Ellis felt would give the team a jumpstart heading into the start of official team practice last week.

The Mountain Lions begin their season on September 2nd with a game at Canyon del Oro.