After losing in the Class 5A state quarterfinals for three years in a row, the Clovis High volleyball team finally cleared that hurdle last season — bowing out in the semifinals to eventual champion Mayfield.
If the Lady Wildcats are going to make another strong run this season, it’ll probably be on the shoulders of senior middle hitter Antiesha Brown.
“I knew I’d have to fall into this role sooner or later,” said the 5-foot-10 Brown. “Coach (Darrel) Ray has gotten me ready for this. I think I have the experience to be a good leader.”
The Lady Cats (17-7, 4-0 District 4-5A) open the season tonight against Palo Duro in Amarillo.
Ray said Brown, senior setter Carissa Grummer and junior libero Felicia Aguilar form the core of the team.
“We’re looking at those three to do the lion’s share of the work and provide a lot of leadership,” said Ray, beginning his 21st year in the program and 10th season as head coach.
“The biggest deficit we have is (lack of overall) experience,” he said. “We’re starting three sophomores; when you’re talking about the nucleus of a strong team, most of them don’t start with sophomore strong side hitters.”
The Lady Cats are looking for front-row help from sophomore Alek Mendoza in the middle and sophomores Kirsti Shough and Paige Gardner on the outside.
“We’ll go as far as they go,” Ray said of Shough and Gardner. “If the outsides are being productive, then we’ll be fine. And they should be, because our middles will attract a lot of attention.”
Brown, who has committed to play basketball at Texas Tech in college, acknowledged that she didn’t play a lot over the summer and will have to adjust to her new teammates.
“I’m so used to playing with the ’09 class,” she said. “We have a really young team this year.
“This summer was supposed to be a time to work on our chemistry, but Pokey (Aguilar) had a shoulder injury and I was traveling for basketball.”
Ray said the Lady Cats are still the team to beat in their three-team district with Carlsbad and Hobbs, and should get better as the season goes on. The question is how much progress they’ll make by the end of the year.
“When we started three weeks ago to now is like a 170-degree turn,” he said. “I really feel like we’ll probably be more than OK by the time we get to (postseason).”
At a glance
Coach: Darrel Ray (10th season)
Last year's record: 17-7 (4-0 district)
Top players: Carissa Grummer, Sr., S; Antiesha Brown, Sr., MH; Felicia Aguilar, Jr., L.
Top newcomers: Alek Mendoza, So., MH; Kirsti Shough, So., OH; Paige Gardner, So., OH.
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 25 at Amar. Palo Duro 6 p.m.
Aug. 28-29 Clovis Invitational TBA
Sept. 8 at Roswell High 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 15 Plainview 5:45 p.m.
Sept. 18-19 at Santa Fe Tournament TBA
Sept. 22 Frenship 5:45 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Canyon Randall 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 Roswell High 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 Artesia 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 13 at Hobbs-x 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 17 Onate 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 Carlsbad-x 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 22 at Portales 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 27 Hobbs-x 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Artesia 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Carlsbad-x 2:30 p.m.
x-Denotes District 4-5A matches.