Los Lunas High School second-year volleyball coach Tara Trujillo said her team is poised to take a giant leap in 2003. And when they do, they aim to smash that ball over the block and to the floor for a kill.
The Lady Tigers expect to make a lot more noise this year after a turn-around season under Trujillo a year ago. Los Lunas ended the season with only a 9-11 record, but that was a big improvement after finishing 4-17 the previous year. And the Lady Tigers were playing their best volleyball at the end of the year.
The Lady Tigers feel they have what it takes to take another big leap this season. And the sky is the limit.
“We just had our goal-setting meeting a couple of nights ago,” Trujillo said. “The No. 1 goal everyone had listed was to win state. They want to be state champions.”
The saying on the team is that “the road to state goes through Las Cruces.” That’s because district foe Las Cruces High, which has won five of the last seven state championships, is at the level Los Lunas wants to be.
“I have all the respect in the world for their program,” Trujillo said of the Lady Bulldawg dynasty, “but we want a part of that too. We understand that they’re in our district so we have to go through them, or along with them, to get to state.”
Trujillo deserves much of the credit for turning the program around. But she said her job was made easier by the quality of athletes she has to work with.
“We made huge strides last year,” Trujillo said. “Before, volleyball was just something they did. Now they’re really dedicated to it, and they have set some lofty goals for themselves.”
Trujillo said her team has the right mental attitude. They also have the physical attributes.
“We’re probably one of the top-two tallest teams in the state all-around,” the coach said. “We have three girls that are 5-11 and two that are 5-10. That alone makes a big difference — just having all that height in the front row.”
Junior Sabre Dereta has emerged as the team leader. “We’re kind of expecting her to carry the load,” Trujillo said. “The team looks to her to lead them, and that’s good. She can handle it.”
Dereta got better and better last season. By the end of the year, she was a dominating force in the middle. “We saw a huge turn-around in her,” Trujillo said. “She’s become very dedicated to improving her game.
“And she is so strong. There’s nothing like having an athlete like that who can just take over.”
Another junior, Amy Wortman, will play opposite Dereta at middle-hitter/blocker. “We thought about moving her to the outside, but (junior) Keri Hall is really hitting the ball well on the outside, so we want to keep her there,” the coach said.
The other two outside hitters in the Lady Tigers’ 5-1 offense are senior Naomi Cordova and junior Colleen Page. “She’s only 5-5,” Trujillo said of Page, “but she’s a good athlete and can really get up in the air and hit pretty hard.”
Running the offense at setter is junior Lindsy Martinez. “She’s our glue,” the coach said. “She set for us last year, and that really helped her. She does an amazing job of having to know how five different girls like their sets.”
Role players on the team include seniors Stacie Delgado and Stephanie Hanks and juniors Marlysa Sanchez and Nikki Shaw.
The coach said sophomore Tiffanie Phillips may get called up to varsity. “We’re grooming her,” Trujillo said. “She’s a lot like Sabre in a lot of ways. We’ve got her on JV now, but we’re looking to move her up.”
The season gets underway for the Lady Tigers when they travel to Santa Fe to play Capital. The Lady Tigers are hoping it will be the beginning of a championship season. They feel they’re ready to make the leap.
“They know what they have to do, and they want it,” Trujillo said. “They’re hungry. More than ever, they want it.”