Sahuaro went 25-4 last year and was one of the top boys volleyball teams in Southern Arizona, but it returned only two of a dozen players from that squad.

Both of those players - senior Lucas Smith and junior Arthur Gibson - are doing all they can to keep the Cougars on top.

Already 12-3, Sahuaro hasn't dropped a set (31-0) outside of their loss to Rincon/University and two losses to Catalina Foothills.

"We have a great feeder program and a strong tradition of good volleyball here," coach Sandy Novak said. "We expect a lot out of everyone every year."

Before Phoenix Desert Vista upset Sahuaro in the second round of the Division I state tournament last May, the Cougars had made six consecutive state semifinal appearances and won it all in 2009.

The Star sat down with Smith and Gibson to find out more about them:

The basics

Smith: The 6-foot-4-inch senior outside hitter believes football has given him more lower-body strength that has translated to success on the court. Smith, who was a third-year player this season, finished second on the team in receiving touchdowns with five scores on 11 catches.

Gibson: Coming off of a basketball season in which the 6-5 forward averaged close to a double-double and almost four blocks per game, Gibson has found the lateral movement and court vision of hoops to be a big assist to his defense as he moves from right-side to middle blocker.

Big stats

Smith: Averaging nearly three kills per set, he is Sahuaro's leading scorer. Equipped with the size and strength to dominate, Smith has spent the season working on his softer striking skills. "When you're going against a big blocker, you have to know how to hit around it or over it," he said.

Gibson: Thanks to 35-inch vertical leap, Gibson is establishing himself as one of the state's best defenders. He leads the team with 28 blocks and 26 digs.

"His ability to anticipate where the ball is going to go makes a big difference. He would love to block every ball if he could, and he plays like it," Novak said.

Continuing success

Smith: "I try to keep the energy high. We play really well when we're going at 100 percent. It's my last year I want to go out with a bang."

Gibson: "We've grown a lot as a team together. We've gotten a lot better really fast, which is really good for us. We want to show that Sahuaro is one of the best teams still, even though we lost most of our players."