Most Viewed Stories
Desert Stars traveling team attempting to put Yuma volleyball on the map
Yuma is known for Criminals, lettuce and scorching summers, not necessarily volleyball.
The Desert Stars 14U volleyball club is trying to change that perception, however, ending its season ranked No. 13 in the USA Volleyball Arizona Region.
“It's special in the sense that when people think of volleyball, they don't think of Yuma,” Desert Stars coach Maris Grasis said. “As the season wore on and we were successful, teams saw how we played and my girls along with myself got tons of compliments, not only from other teams but parents of other teams, which made us feel good.”
The Desert Stars started the year ranked No. 80 out of 139 teams in their division. Playing one or two tournaments a month, they slowly climbed the charts before ending the regular season at No. 24 before the regional tournament.
“We really connected during the year,” player Hannah Weller said. “During the week, we had practices and we really worked hard. (Grasis) made us do something more, like, each week to add to our skills.”
That work paid off in the regional tournament as the Desert Stars won their final three matches in the bronze division of the regional tournament to secure their No. 13 ranking.
“One special thing about this team is they have a never-die attitude,” Grasis said. “It'd be great to say it was me coaching but that was them. When you have kids that are motivated and parents that are motivated, it makes it pretty easy as a coach.”
Grasis, who also coaches volleyball at Yuma Catholic, tried to instill the same intensity that he does with the Shamrocks at Desert Stars practices.
“I treated this team like I treat my high school team,” Grasis said. “Practice was ran that way, a lot of movement, a lot of competition, to get them ready for what it was going to be like in club play.”
One of Grasis' main focuses is simply to elevate the play of volleyball all across Yuma, helping the high school programs become even stronger.
“It's helped tremendously,” Grasis said. “All these girls except one are eighth-graders. They're all on their middle school teams and they all ended up in the championships.
“People ask me, ‘Do you think it has to do with club volleyball?' Absolutely. These girls have a greater understanding because they're playing volleyball for such a long period of time, they are able to translate it and take it over to their middle school teams.”
For the eighth-graders, it also gives them extra confidence when trying out for the high school teams next season.
“It gives us another boost,” Weller said. “Our coach really taught us a lot this year.”