If Jake Wekell has any say, Arizona boys volleyball is about to get a little more respect.
Wekell is taking his setting and hitting to the islands — the University of Hawaii to be exact, on a volleyball scholarship.
“It’s really hard to come out of Arizona playing volleyball,” Wekell said. “Coaches kind of look over it because there haven’t been that many players coming out of here.”
They noticed Wekell, a 6-foot-3 do-everything player. The Tempe Marcos de Niza setter hit .383, averaging 3.6 kills per game, 1.5 aces and 0.61 blocks, to lead the Padres to the state final in 4A/5A Division II.
The Padres took a game from powerhouse Tucson Catalina Foothills before falling in four to the three-time defending state champions.
“What he has done for this team has been incredible,” Marcos coach Scott Miller said. “Setting, but also hitting, when they (the opponent) know the ball is going to him every time, to swing at the high percentage that he has throughout the season … was amazing.”
Wekell was surrounded by players who did not have the club experience he did, but he helped the group mesh.
“He was so supportive the whole season ” Miller said. “He’s definitely going to be missed.”
Wekell knows he’s taking his game to the next level, one not seen by many Arizona volleyballers. The state lags behind California in competition but is gaining ground and stature at national club and prep tournaments.
“It’s a different level than California,” Wekell said. “We have the hitting and the blocking but not really the ball control. They have really good rallies over there and we have more like a good hit is down and it’s a kill. That’s why it’s really fun going over there and playing.”
Wekell set the stage for his year by winning the most valuable player award at the Chandler Wolf Howl Invitational on the first weekend of the season.
He even had fans outside of his division.
“Jake Wekell is the best player in the state,” Phoenix Desert Vista coach Ryan Tolman said. “Versatile, strong and the nicest kid you’ll ever talk to. Best jump serve in the state and if you’re not careful he’ll knock your head off.”
MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2008 SEASON
Howling beginning: Mountain Pointe served notice it was the team to beat by taking the Chandler Wolf Howl tournament on the first weekend of the season. The Pride rallied from a first-game loss to beat Gilbert and set the tone for their state championship.
Jackrabbit start: Behind the play of Sosaia Mataele and Derek Biggs, Mesa jumped out to a 7-0 start and suddenly became the East Valley Region favorite. Red Mountain was more consistent, and a rising Westwood club surged to tie the Mountain Lions for the regular-season title as all three teams earned state tournament bids but lost in the first round.
They’d rather dance: In the Brophy tournament, Mountain Pointe dispatched Ahwatukee Foothills rival Desert Vista in the final and might have been able to sweep the season’s invitationals with a win at McClintock. But that tourney was on the same day as the prom and many players chose dancing over volleyball. Desert Vista beat Mountain Pointe before losing to Anthem Boulder Creek in the final.
Titletown: After a five-year drought, Mountain Pointe earned its sixth state title by beating on-the-rise Anthem Boulder Creek in the championship match. The Pride sprinted to a 2-0 lead, allowed the north Valley interlopers to get back in the game but recovered in time for a five-set victory. The Tempe Union High School District nearly made it a sweep but Marcos de Niza was beaten in four games after winning the first game of the title match against three-peaters Tucson Catalina Foothills.