Clovis High’s volleyball team has been a regular in the Class 5A state quarterfinals, although the Lady Wildcats have advanced beyond point that only once.
Last year it seemed like a longshot, but Clovis upended Mayfield in the first round of the state tournament in Albuquerque before losing in the quarterfinals to Rio Rancho.
Second-year coach Gabe Apodaca said after a day-long, four-team scrimmage with Portales, Texico and Fort Sumner on Saturday at Rock Staubus Gym that his squad hopes experience pays off in another state run.
“I’m excited about the experience we have, especially that we’re senior-heavy,” Apodaca said. “Girls like (senior outside hitter) Kirsti (Shough) and (senior middle hitter) Alek (Mendoza) have been playing since they were freshmen, so they have a lot of experience.”
Apodaca said positions aren’t firmly established as the team prepares to travel to Amarillo Palo Duro for Tuesday’s season opener. He said he’s looking at a possible two-setter formation with senior Kendra Gibbons, a defensive specialist last year, and Shough under consideration.
Gibbons said her transition shouldn’t be that difficult.
“You have to think before every play and know your hitters,” she said. “Once we get our rotations, I think we’ll get better.”
Apodaca has tried to instill a quick-strike attack for the Lady Cats, who finished 11-13 last fall.
“We’d like to stay with a quick-tempo style of offense,” Apodaca said. “We’ve got a lot of little kinks to work out, but hopefully we’ll be ready come (District 4-5A) time.”
Other top returnees include senior outside hitter Paige Gardner and sophomore middle hitter Sydney Romero. The Lady Cats also gain the services of senior outside hitter Kaleigh Mitchell, who transferred from Onate last year but was ruled ineligible to play.
“With the addition of Kaleigh Mitchell, I think we’re a stronger team,” Apodaca said. “I really look forward to seeing the block from here; I think that’s what she’ll give us.”
The 5-foot-1 Gibbons said the fact the Lady Cats are senior-laden should be an asset.
“I think this could be a year we could go really far, once we get everything situated,” she said. “We’ve been working hard in practice.”
As for the district, Carlsbad also has a senior-dominated team which had something of a breakout year in 2010, beating the Lady Cats in the finals of the district tournament for the first time.
“We’re going to have some exciting matches with them,” Apodaca said. “Hobbs is in the process of building their whole program with a new coach.
“We’ve focused a lot on conditioning. The first part of the year, I think that’s critical. Our fundamentals may seem like they’re suspect at this time, but we will be in shape.”
Clovis and Palo Duro have opened the season each of the last four years, Apodaca said, with the Lady Cats winning two of the previous three. CHS hosts a 16-team invitational next weekend at The Rock.
23 — at Amarillo Palo Duro, 5:45 p.m.; 26-27 — Clovis Invitational; 30 — at Roswell Goddard, 6:45 p.m.
6 — Portales, 6:45 p.m.; 9-10 — Zia Classica at Roswell; 13 — Plains, 6:30 p.m.; 16-17 — at Santa Fe tournament; 22 — Roswell Goddard, 6:45 p.m.; 29 — Roswell High, 6:45 p.m.
6 — at Roswell High, 6:45 p.m.; 11 — at Hobbs, 6:45 p.m.-x; 18 — Carlsbad, 6:45 p.m.-x; 20 — at Portales, 6:45 p.m.; 25 — Hobbs, 6:45 p.m.-x; 29 — at Carlsbad, 2:45 p.m.-x.
x-Denotes District 4-5A matches.