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From Left to Right
Back Row: Tylesha Pondexter, Amareece Shelton, Ruth Garcia, Jasmin Smith, Destiny Ramirez, Amina Levon, Alexis Lee
Front: Czarina Bojorquez, Miriam Pasqual, Savannah Ranger
by José E. Garcia - Jul. 6, 2012 10:02 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Coaches Nick Wycoff and Daniel Garcia tried everything to get their talented volleyball players to stop being so passive.
They even played bad and good cop roles to see if they could awaken their team. But not a peep from Wycoff and Garcia's Team Az Sports Under-14 girls volleyball team was heard.
When the team recently traveled to San Diego for a big national tournament, Wycoff and Garcia also attempted to coax their team out of its shell by promising to buy the girls ice cream from a high-end parlor if they became a more vocal group. The girls responded by putting their money together, telling their coaches they had enough cash to buy their own ice cream.
The Team Az Sports club team might be a quiet bunch, but the girls also are smart. They are also national champions.
During its trip to San Diego, the U-14 team won a Starlings National title. Starlings is the nation's largest junior volleyball club, and it provides opportunities for girls to participate in volleyball regardless of their socioeconomic background, according to Starlings' website.
Wycoff's father, Bob, the former athletic program director for the local Salvation Army and director of Team Az Sports, has experienced his share of success since he started taking local volleyball teams to San Diego since about 1996. This year's Team Az Sports' U-14 team, with girls from Phoenix and Laveen, became the sixth team to bring home a Starling national title under the direction of Bob.
Wycoff and his sister, Christina, have each won national championships as coaches.
"It felt good winning (a national title)," said Czarina Bojorquez, the U-14 team's defensive specialist. "We are a close team."
But this year's run to a national title was bittersweet for Bojorquez's team.
While in San Diego for the national tournament, the U-14 team wore pink shirts to honor a former club member, Olivia Wilson, who was killed by a drunk driver in May. Also, Bob's Team Az Sports' teams were without a home court this year for the first time since 1992.
Bob was laid off in August, and he said the Salvation Army told Bob that he could no longer run a competitive sports program at the new $79 million Salvation Army facility, the Kroc Corps Community Center, in Phoenix. The U-14 team's coaches said they were saddened that the Salvation Army closed its doors to Team Az Sports, which shares a similar community-based mission as the Salvation Army. Salvation Army officials were unavailable for comment.
Not having a home base didn't keep Bob, 61, from continuing to run his programs.
Through his community contacts, Bob found court time at different facilities for his teams. Club volleyball teams tend to charge their players anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per season, but it only costs $250 to play for Team Az Sports.
Team Az Sports still owes the hotel it stayed at in San Diego $5,000, but Bob always tends to find ways to pay off his debts for his sports teams. The struggles are well worth it, he said.
"This is for the kids and the community," Bob said.