Michaela Christiaansen can't recall the last time a girls volleyball team from Southern Arizona won a state championship.
Her memory isn't fading, but she literally can't remember. She was 3 months old.
It was 1993 when Juanita Kingston's Rincon squad last brought a 4A championship trophy back to Tucson. To locate the last 5A title, you have to dig back 10 years further, to when Mary Hines' Catalina team won it all in 1983.
Christiaansen, now a star senior for Ironwood Ridge, was born in 1993; Rincon's title came in November of that year. Sabino's Maddie Bushman was only 6 months old at the time. Amphi's Taylor Lane was 5 months old.
But nearly 18 years later, these three local standouts seem to represent Tucson's best chance at a return to the winner's circle.
Christiaansen will anchor an Ironwood Ridge team that was No. 1 in the state in the 5A-II Conference last season before being upset by No. 5 Scottsdale Horizon in the state semifinals. Her natural position is setter (she has verbally committed to set for Austin Peay next year), but she will resume her job at outside hitter for the Nighthawks.
Bushman and Lane, both natural hitters, are teammates of Christiaansen on Tucson's Dinamo 17-Elite club team and will lead their respective high school teams this year.
Bushman's 4A-I Sabino squad was bounced in the second round of last season's state tournament, and with an older, more experienced supporting cast, she thinks the Sabercats can go all the way this time around.
Lane's 4A-II Amphitheater team made it to the state final in 2008 but lost in last year's semis. She, too, has a good opportunity to lead her team to glory.
The Star asked each of the three standouts about the strengths of her counterparts. Here is what they had to say:
Michaela Christiaansen, 5-9, Sr., OH, Ironwood Ridge
Lane said: "She's a really cerebral player. She hits it hard, but that's not her main intent. She views the court in a way nobody I know does. She's just a very smart player that looks at the court and finds ways to score without slamming it to the ground. She always leads Ironwood in kills, but it's more just because she knows where to put the ball."
Maddie Bushman, 5-10, Sr., OH, Sabino
Christiaansen said: "I know Maddie is way stronger (than me) as far as hitting goes. She's so experienced that she can make a kill every time. Maddie is a great outside, and it's a shame that she probably gets overlooked by some schools because she's not 6feet tall."
Taylor Lane, 5-9, Sr., OH, Amphitheater
Bushman said: "She works so hard and even though she's a little short for a left side, she really makes up for it with her athleticism. She jumps super high and has a really, really powerful arm. When she's on, she can beat anyone. She's a great passer and, like Michaela, she's also a great player all around."
Girls volleyball 2010 watch list
Michaela Christiaansen, Sr., IR
Taylor Lane, Sr., AMP
Maddie Bushman, Sr., SAB
Catie Coyle, Sr., SAL
Kristen Byers, Sr., FW
Meghan Finley, Sr., IR
Alexis Ammerman, Sr., TUC
Morgan Eaton, Sr., IR
Kaylee Rakowski, Sr., SAHT
Kylee Spicer, Jr., CIEN
Selections made by Star staff in consultation with area coaches.