Arizona high school girls volleyball Small Schools Player of the Year: Sarah Sponcil

Arizona high school girls volleyball Small Schools Player of the Year: Sarah Sponcil

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Arizona high school girls volleyball Small Schools Player of the Year: Sarah Sponcil

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On the face of it, there is nothing new but the season.

Junior Sarah Sponcil again led Phoenix Veritas Prep to a Division V championship, its third straight and fourth in five years. And Sponcil again was the best player on the court no matter what team stepped onto it on the other side of the net.

Sponcil led her team with 438 kills, 69 aces, 39 blocks, and 530 assists (which means she had a hand in 89 percent of Veritas Prep’s 1,091 kills this season). So there wasn’t a surprise that she earned her second straight Small Schools Player of the Year award.

“Sarah is the biggest part of our team,” Veritas Prep junior libero Abby Hickman said. “She is a leader and she helps everybody. She gives you confidence that you know you can do something because she knows what everyone is capable of.”

But there is something different.

The Loyola Marymount-bound Sponcil, somehow, is a much better player than she was last year.

“Her volleyball IQ and knowledge of the game is getting even higher,” Veritas Prep coach Wes Goodwin said. “What she really did in the off-season that helped was she went to California and played a lot of sand volleyball. While a play is being set, she would turn a little and peak to see where the defenders are before she hits a ball into an open corner or an open spot. She’s just really intelligent.”

Sponcil and her sand volleyball partner, Peoria Centennial junior middle blocker Maddy Mertz, made a splash in the summer after winning the girls U-17 Beach High Performance Championship gold bracket at Hermosa Beach, Calif. Through its championship run in the national tournament, the pair beat teams that were selected to be on the U.S. volleyball national system.

“Playing sand volleyball definitely helped my game for indoor volleyball,” Sponcil said. “You see the court better and where to place the ball in a spot people aren’t. It just helps you that much more. There are only two players and you have to know how to pass, hit, serve and play defensively. It makes you that much faster, that much smarter when you play indoor ball.”

Hickman sees Sponcil’s improvement every match. When asked to describe what its like to watch Sponcil play, Hickman laughed.

“It’s amazing to watch her,” she said. “You see her about to make a move and work her way around the court to fool the other team. It’s really funny sometimes. You watch her pick where she’s going to go with the ball and you see all the players on the other team scrambling to get it. It’s pretty awesome.”

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