Venom volleyball

Venom volleyball is headed to a national tournament where 100 college coaches will watch

Local 13U girls’ volleyball team headed to national tournament in Las Vegas.

The mecca of youth volleyball, the national tournament is June 29 to July 3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Teams are coming from across the country, and almost 100 college coaches will be watching. 

Coach Steven Ortiz, who also helms the Desert Edge High School football team, said he believes it’s an important steppingstone for the program and West Valley as a whole.

“It means that it can be done. It’s a great thing. No one can tell us that it can’t be done now. We have all the right people around to be successful,” Ortiz said.

The tournament costs nearly $1,000 per player, so the team started a GoFundMe account at


The Venom 13U Gold team’s athletes come from Goodyear schools — Alyssa Ortiz of Copper Trails Elementary School; Reina Smith, Essence Gilmer, Mackenzie Rubel and Sophia Zimmerman of Western Sky Middle School; Addyson Fullerton and Alyssa Munoz of Belen Soto Elementary School; and Payton Murray of Westar Elementary School.

Founded by Jimmy Gonzalez, Venom was coached by Kris Smith along with Ortiz. Gonzalez charged $450 the first year, while other clubs charge up to $3,000 to join. 

The girls’ commitment to hard work has impressed the coaching staff. They outwork most girls their age, and that, Ortiz said, is what led them to be the only 13U team to go to nationals from the West Valley.

“Being a football coach, I kind of treat volleyball like football,” Ortiz said. “They actually go to a strength and conditioning coach every week. They go there twice a week, and we practice three times a week, so Monday through Friday they’re working.  And we’re reaping the benefits.”

Success and the opportunity to go to nationals isn’t the most important thing to the club. The girls are a “family,” and that’s what comes first. Their success is just a byproduct of this foundation, spearheaded by Gonzalez.

“Jimmy wants the environment to be very family-oriented,” Ortiz said. 

“He tries to control who comes into Venom because everyone gets along.  It’s a legitimate family environment, and he doesn’t want to get away from that.”