As high school volleyball tryouts conclude this week. Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia are looking to finalize rosters and prepare for the start of the season.
All three programs tasted some success last season, but the Eagles, Tigers and Jaguars had to swallow some disappointment as well.
The Tigers are coming off an impressive 15-7 season, which included a 10-0 mark in District 5-5A. However, the 0-2 record at the state tournament is a motivating factor this year.
“Our defense did so well this summer,” said head coach Tanya Sanchez, mentioning top-four finishes in tournaments at Northern Arizona University and the University of New Mexico. “I’m hoping that it just gets better throughout the season so that we can compete against these big teams, make a run for it at state, going for that blue” championship trophy.
When Sanchez mentions “big” teams, she is talking about the size of the front lines of New Mexico’s best squads. Size is something the Tigers lack, so extending points is critical.
But Sanchez says LLHS can attack as well.
“We have some pretty good ‘pin’ hitters this year,” including Riley Luther and Aleigha Romero, both seniors, as well as junior Mellody Chavez. Junior setter Mia Mendoza will direct the attack.
Los Lunas has plenty of experience and should be battle tested for the post season. The schedule includes Cleveland, Volcano Vista, Cibola, the Sweet 16 in Las Cruces and Albuquerque’s Metro Tournament.
Third-year Belen coach Victoria Spragg is not just excited about this season, she is “super excited this year, actually.”
Why the positive vibe? After winning just two games in 2021, the Eagles improved to 9-13 last season, 3-5 in District 5-4A, including a split against Valencia.
“This year, I expect us to exceed that,” an upbeat Spragg said. “I can only imagine progress from here. Everybody has been coming and putting in a lot of work this summer.”
Spragg has a new coaching staff and lost just one player to graduation, although Maesyn Lopez will be difficult to replace in the middle.
Another positive is an increase in player numbers.
“Our goal is to have full teams all the way across the board,” including fielding a C-team, which BHS wasn’t able to do last season.
“I definitely think we can challenge for that district title and then make it to state,” is how Spragg looks at it. “We’re ready. It’s a program that’s been building for a few years. I think this is going to be the year we’re going to make some waves.”
A loss to Belen late last season may have kept Valencia (12-11, 4-4) out of the 4A state tournament. Finishing off tight matches is a priority for the Jaguars this go-round, according to sophomore Jaiden Montgomery.
“I feel if we work on finishing games we can make it to state this year. Our hitters are really good.”
Junior Alissa Raley agrees.
“We were super close to making it to state and so that’s my goal this year,” Raley said. “Everybody has a positive attitude and is committed.”
You can see the commitment in the number of players who are out for the team.
“It’s really exciting to see so many kids show up and so many people returning and wanting to play,” senior Sosha McGregor observed. “It’s just our communication that we need to work on, but I think we’ve really come together as a team. Better than we were last year.”
Coach Melissa Marberry-Profit was pleased with the success of the team over the summer, and McGregor expects VHS to continue improving.
“I’m super excited this year to see how everybody grows.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.