Tucson High School’s girls volleyball team is off to its best start ever. The Badgers have won 14 straight matches, which stands as the state’s longest active winning streak, regardless of division.
Their streak will be in jeopardy tonight.
Tucson, ranked No. 8 in the Division II seedings, will host No. 7 Cienega (12-2) tonight in a rematch of the TUSD Invitational championship game earlier this season, which Tucson won.
Tucson has won 14 straight, dropping just one set, since falling in five sets in the season opener to Ironwood Ridge, the No. 1 team in the division and a favorite to win the state title. The Badgers are starting to look like legitimate state title contenders, especially now that they have dropped to Division II.
“Teams are coming after us now,” Tucson coach Wendy Escarcega-Parra said. “We are going to have to be prepared to challenge them back.”
The Star recently caught up with the team to find out what makes it so good and how the Badgers can keep winning. The answer: three S’s.
Despite losing star player Carly Trueman and returning just five varsity players from a team that went 23-8 and made the Division I state tournament last fall, Tucson may be even better this season.
All five returners were starters. Senior captains Summer Avery and Ana Aguilar are both four-year varsity players.
“I think we’ve done a good job getting everyone focused,” Aguilar said. “After winning the TUSD tournament, we became closer and started working together more. We feed off each other. It’s a great vibe out there.”
Avery, an outside hitter headed to Cal State-Bakersfield next fall, and Aguilar, an opposite, are No. 1 and 2 on the team in digs, and No. 2 and 3 in kills, respectively.
“I’ve tried to let the girls know it’s OK to be good,” said Avery. “You have to work hard to be good. Be proud of that.”
At 6 feet 4 inches tall, both senior Mariah Rodriguez and sophomore Mia Sokolowski tower over their teammates — and most of their competition.
Rodriguez, a middle blocker who missed much of last year with an ankle injury, is healthy and leading the team in blocks. Meanwhile, after an impressive freshman campaign in which Sokolowski led the team in blocks, the athletic second-year hitter now spearheads Tucson’s three-pronged attack as the team’s leader in kills.
“They definitely give us an advantage out there,” Avery said. “Tall girls can do everything on the floor.”
Routinely racking up 20 or more assists in a match, sophomore Bailey Gin is well on her way to another 500-plus assist season as the Badgers setter.
Although just a sophomore, Gin and the rest of the team have been given the freedom by coach Escarcega-Parra to create on their own.
“We have awesome passers and hitters; I’m just the one getting it started,” said Gin. “We get each other, and it’s exciting when we can work together to get the kill.”