Prep volleyball: Stephenson a high note for Skyline

Prep volleyball • Eagles sits in third place halfway through Region 7 play.
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Aly Stephenson loves to sing.

As a bass singer for Skyline High's Highlites, a women's barbershop choir, Stephenson loves when the distinct four-part vocals blend to become one.

Yet one mistake, a poorly performed chord, and the result is not as divine as it is painful.

Stephenson, the Eagles' 6-foot-3 outside hitter, believes the philosophy for success in volleyball is much the same.

"In barbershop, it is really important that we're blending," Stephenson said. "It's important that we match our vowels. That applies here, too. We all have to be moving together as a team on offense and defense. We have to have the same mindset or we can't perform as a team."

So far, Skyline is slowly becoming one unit as coach Jami Hutchins seeks to blend a new group identity. The Eagles (4-2, 15-9) find themselves sitting third behind Westlake and Herriman through the first half of Class 4A Region 7 play.

Skyline travels to Herriman on Thursday for a chance to even the season series with the Mustangs.

"The core of our girls have been together," Stephenson said. "We've always struggled with playing as an entire team. We had to work on trust and communication. But I think we've come a long ways and we're playing more as a team every time we're on the court."

Hutchins' goal is to build team confidence.

"We're making slow progress," he said. "We're still working on the mental side of it."

Stephenson spent the offseason improving her passing, fundamentals and mental outlook. It's what a leader would do.

And Hutchins, who played Stephenson on the right side during last season's undefeated run through district to the semifinals of the state playoffs, has seen the difference in his tall senior, who wants to play college volleyball.

Stephenson wore a BYU T-shirt to practice, if that's any clue about her ambitions.

"She's always been coordinated for her height," her coach said. "But she has really grasped the arm swing part of her body. She always was a little bit lanky, but her defense has improved a ton as she learned to maneuver the body better."

Skyline lost seven seniors from its 2011 team that went 28-5, including 10-0 in district. The Eagles eventually lost a five-set match to Timpview in the semis in the state playoffs.

Three of those seniors, Nicole Powell, Elsie Noorda and Courtney Rada, were among The Salt Lake Tribune's first- or second-team all-state selections.

Players such as Kassidy Siddoway, Madison O'Connor and Alex Larsen have begun to build Skyline a new identity, with support from their bass singer.

"She's one of our main dependable hitters," setter Aimee Mojzisik said. "She's always helping everyone out. I think we can get a lot better than we are now."

As Stephenson put it, "You can never have too many positive people." —