In the last three state volleyball championships, Class 3A has been ruled by the Pojoaque Valley Elkettes.
This season, as the state tourney is set to start Thursday, the general tenor among Class 3A coaches is that the blue trophy is up for grabs and anybody in the upper two-thirds of the 12-team bracket might walk away with a title.
Unfortunately for all of the teams who haven’t won lately, one of those still in contention is Pojoaque Valley. And when the ball is served, that traditional early-November magic for the Elkettes won’t be far from team members’ minds.
Still, coach Joey Trujillo is quick to note that this year is different. Pojoaque’s old coach Brian Ainsworth is at 5A Cleveland, along with his daughter, Briana, who spearheaded the Elkettes’ last title run from the setter position.
“This is a group that is different than the last three years – different coaches, different setter,” Trujillo said. “A lot of the girls were on (junior varsity) last year. Only a couple had major experience from a year ago.”
Those two are hitters Erica Rendon and Kristin Woody as the Elkettes enter the state tourney as the second seed. When pool play starts at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, Pojoaque Valley will be in a group with seventh-seeded West Las Vegas and No. 10 Sandia Prep.
“We’ve talked to the girls about not being overconfident,” Trujillo said. “West will have something to prove after we beat them for the district title, and we’ve played Sandia Prep this year, too. There’s no easy games when it comes to the state tournament.”
Another team in the mix for the 3A title is Santa Fe Indian School. The Lady Braves finished second in their district to top-seeded Hope Christian, but were well regarded enough to be seeded fifth themselves.
Paced by hitters Ashley Terry and Danielle Nelson, SFIS is in a pool with No. 4 Silver and No. 12 Bloomfield. The Lady Braves started the season with a 4-9 record as they struggled with injuries before finishing with an 11-11 mark.
“The big thing with us is we’re better than it looks. Nine of our losses were to district champions,” Santa Fe Indian coach Brian Gurule said. “Triple-A is wide open. Last year, Pojoaque was so dominant. This year, any team can win – it’s just whoever gets hot.”
In Class 4A, both Los Alamos and Española Valley face significant challenges in pool play before the bracket pairings are established Friday.
The ninth-seeded Hilltoppers are in a pool with top-seeded Piedra Vista, while Española’s preliminary matches include one against two-time defending champion Artesia.
The landscape is similar in Class 2A for representatives from northern New Mexico. Mora is the eighth-seed and is paired in a pool with top-seeded Bosque School, while Santa Fe Prep, seeded 10th, will square off against Texico, winners of the last six state championships.
Questa, Escalante and McCurdy are seeded ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively, in the 1A bracket, which will be played at Rio Rancho High.
In the smallest school level, Class B, Santa Fe Waldorf carries a sparkling 19-1 record into the playoffs. Conversely, the Wolves also have zero experience in the state volleyball postseason and next to no knowledge of the other teams in the field.
Freshman Rosemary Damianov and senior Sophia Richard lead Waldorf in kills as the team begins play at Cleveland High on Thursday.
“We’ve told the girls that seeds mean nothing and school names mean nothing. You just have to go and play good volleyball. We need to start out fast and be confident,” Waldorf coach Daniel Wendland said. “We’ve never played any of the teams in the bracket, so there’s an unknown there. We’re also an underdog because we’ve never been there. There will be a lot of nerves, but we’re going to have to play through the nerves.” STATE VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
STATE VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS