When stepping into the Arcadia gym, it’s easy to recognize who the volleyball team’s big three are.
Seniors Izzy Miller, Stayce Benton and Jensen Barton will be playing at the next level next year, but that’s in the back of their minds as they chase the state title for the last time.
Next up on their path is rival Phoenix Sunnyslope, which the three have never beaten in their career and is the only team to beat Arcadia (18-1) this year. Miller, the team’s best hitter, was sick during that game.
“It was not fun at all and I wasn’t 100 percent,” Miller said. “It will be a definitely more focused game and a lot more easier to play.”
Benton and Barton — both setters who have committed to Dartmouth and NAU, respectively — know the success of the team rides on their shoulders. However, their level of play continues to improve, and coach Josh Olshan is happy with keeping both of them setting.
“I have never had two setters like this,” Olshan said. “The advantage is that you always have a great pair of hands on the ball no matter what happens… It is a luxury that I will never have again. I realize how fortunate I am. Two Division I setters on the same team; you never hear of that.”
A little bit farther out of the spotlight is senior libero and first-year varsity player Aly Murney. Murney is one of seven new faces on the roster this year but might be the team’s most crucial part. Early on things weren’t easy, but Murney’s teammates congratulate her on the progress she has made.
“At the beginning of the season she would mess up and get really down on herself,” Barton said. “She would be scared of me, Izzy and Stayce. Then she would be timid for the rest of the game, but now if she messes up she will get the next ball.”
Benton said she told Murney that this is what the game of volleyball is about, making mistakes and coming back.
With more team chemistry now than earlier in the season, Arcadia is ready for the Sunnyslope matchup, but it will take a near-perfect game to beat a program that always brings its best when the two teams play.
“(Sunnyslope coach Amber LeTarte) has an amazing program,” Olshan said. “We bring out the best in them, but I am not sure they bring out the best in us yet. We almost get too hyped up.”