The high school season ended a couple of months ago, but the game goes on for some of the best volleyball players across the state playing on club teams.
And expectations are high for Club Payson’s 18-and-under squad with several players returning from a 17-and-under team that finished fourth in the state a year ago.
Payson’s 18s won all three of their matches 2-0 in Tempe on Jan. 18 in the first of their seven tournaments for the season.
The season runs through April with Club Payson teams practicing twice a week and competing in tournaments, usually on Saturdays in the Valley.
Five teams compete as Club Payson in the Arizona Region of USA Volleyball in the 18-and-under, 16-and-under, 15-and-under, 14-and-under and 12-and-under divisions. There’s also a developmental Club Payson team featuring girls and young as 4, who practice a couple of times a week, but don’t compete in tournaments.
“They’re out there passing, setting and hitting twice a week,” said Trevor Creighton, the co-director of Club Payson Volleyball.
Trevor Creighton and his wife, 16-and-under coach Shelli Creighton, started the club three years ago.
The club’s teams don’t have a set practice schedule.
“We practice whenever we can get gym time,” Trevor Creighton said. “During basketball season, it’s a trying thing. We’ve got to work around the school’s basketball season. We’ve got to work around all things. The town uses the facilities, as well. We’re low on the pecking order.”
The four other Club Payson teams were scheduled to open the season Jan. 25 — the 16s at South Mountain Community College, the 15s coached by Hannah Armenta in Glendale, the 14s coached by Mckenzie Creighton in Mesa and the 12s coached by Kamae Carnes in Tempe.
The 18s were off. That team competes in the Championship Division, which is one notch below the Open Division, which features a lot of Division I college-bound athletes. Club is one notch below Championship Division. That’s the level most of the Club Payson teams compete in.
But the 17s who finished fourth a year ago, competed in the Championship Division.
The roster for the 18s includes: Cori Barnett, Kaylee Byers, Reagan Chalmers, Mckenzie Creighton, Morgan DiFelice, Jade Holland, Heather Johnson, Rachael Larned, Taryn North and Taylor Randall. While most live in Payson, some are from outside the area. DiFelice and Chalmers are Fountain Hills High students. DiFelice played at Payson High as a freshman before transferring to Fountain Hills. Johnson is a Blue Ridge High student.
DiFelice and Chalmers compete together for Fountain Hills in two-person sand volleyball. They finished in the top five in the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Tournament this season.
In addition to playing tournaments in Arizona, the hope is to also get the 18s into a big tournament in California.
“We’re trying to take the 18s to the Southern California National Qualifier in Anaheim in March,” Trevor Creighton said.
The 18s play three matches each of the first six tournaments. “In the last one, we play five,” Trevor Creighton said. “The first three kind of seed you and then there’s a bracket and a championship and the last two determine your final spot for that year.”