Sandra Day O’Connor girls beach volleyball team seeks back-to-back state championships to cap undefeated season

Olivia Le Blanc, right, and Liana Huesca of Sandra Day O’Connor enter Wednesday’s matchup looking to repeat a state champions in girls beach volleyball. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Day O’Connor High School)

PHOENIX – Sandra Day O’Connor High School’s girls beach volleyball team won its first state championship last year. The Eagles came into this season with a target on their back as the defending champs and despite getting every team’s best effort, they managed a 17-0 record and stand one win away from repeating as champions.

“Honestly it is a humble feeling. I don’t even know what the word is to describe it, but this group is such a special group,” said coach Jamey Spartz. “You don’t want to take away from last year’s group either, but this is a really special group so it would be amazing to know as a state champion they were able to repeat it this year.

“It would definitely mean a lot to these girls to have that back-to-back championship title, and knowing we are a team that is now being sought after and not being the underdog. It is a good feeling.”

Spartz started the program eight seasons ago and has turned this team into a powerhouse in the state. With an undefeated season on the line along with a state championship Wednesday against Queen Creek, the team understands how much more this game means.

“I think it would just show how far we have come. My freshman year we didn’t win, and I just feel like we have come so far as a team and we are so bonded at this point,” said junior Piper Rama. “We haven’t underestimated anybody, even though we had an undefeated season and we still have gone into playoffs head-hunting and wanting it that bad.”

The transition from last year’s state championship team was not as easy as it looked this season. After losing seven starters, the Eagles relied on a younger core to make another run.

“I think that the team culture that we have had, especially this year, has made us so successful,” said junior Katie Lambeth. “Each year has been so different, but this year we kind of had a new onset of younger classmen and new indoor girls coming in. It has been fun to see over the last two years who comes in and which teams work together well.”

Sandra Day O'Connor has managed to remain undefeated in girls beach volleyball after entering the season as the team to beat following last year's state title win. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Day O'Connor High School)

Sandra Day O’Connor has managed to remain undefeated in girls beach volleyball after entering the season as the team to beat following last year’s state title win. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Day O’Connor High School)

Despite losing most of their starters from a year ago, the Eagles have figured out a winning formula in each game this season. The reasons for their success starts with coaching, then ability and teamwork toward one common goal.

“I think a lot of the girls on the team have been really coachable and we have a wide variety of personalities which has made everyone grow as a person and mature. I think obviously we have lots of talent, but I think everyone has been open to playing with each other,” said sophomore Olivia Le Blanc. “The past two years that I have been on the team there have been a lot of partner switch-ups, which normally happens, but I think everyone has adjusted really well and done a great job with each other.”

Though the younger classmen have been exceptional on the court, the team’s culture and identity have also led them back to the state championship.

“We have been instilling team culture and having the respect for every level down to the JV. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or a senior, and so building that culture has been huge in the success of where the team has had that buy-in,” Spartz said.

“Having that leadership with our captains and having them be able to lead without me telling them what to do, they know what needs to be done. That has made a huge impact in building the culture of it.”

As the season winds down to the very last game, this team from Sandra Day O’Connor has had one to remember.

“This group especially, I have to tell you, I started this program when my daughter had asked me and it’s pretty special. It is captivating because they don’t think that they are better than anyone, they stay down to everyone’s level and we are all equal,” Spartz said. “They respect each other and I think that they appreciate all the little things that we as coaches do even as individuals.

“That means a lot and I am going to miss this group, especially the seniors, but we have such an amazing young group of players that are ready to lead. This group is going to be a year to remember for sure.”

Bret David bret DAY-vid
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Bret David expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. David, who is assigned to Cronkite Sports this semester, plans to continue his education at Arizona State University in pursuit of a sports law degree.