Step two for the Santa Fe volleyball program is well underway.
Coming off a strong season in which the Demonettes went 16-8 and reached the state tournament quarterfinals, they now want more.
“We want to stay humble and keep working, but we think we have a huge opportunity as a program from this point to be a contender, hopefully year after year if we continue to do what we’re doing,” said second-year coach Josie Adams.
What they’re doing is building a program predicated on every member of the team being able to pass effectively and lining up a series of hitters up front capable of finishing at the net.
“We spend an hour and a half on passing a day,” Adams said. “This is how we can keep the ball in play and execute a higher level of play on the court. If we keep the ball in system, that’s what we’ve focused on doing, and it’s working.”
Indeed, it is working, as heading into a weekend tournament at Rio Rancho that will feature many of top 5A programs, Santa Fe has a 7-1 mark, with the only blemish coming at the hands of Pojoaque Valley.
The tournament marks the final non-district push before heading into play 5-5A play. After finishing as runners-up last season, the Demonettes should be considered favorites to grab the district title.
“It’s an incredible program,” Adams said of the Demonettes. “And it has a lot of talent.”
Senior Salome Romp is the team’s undisputed star, but she is far from a one-girl band for the Demonettes.
The 5-foot, 9-inch outside hitter leads the team with 127 kills, with a 52.5 killer percentage. But juniors Isabella Melton and Jorja Charmbers are also adept, with 69 (a 53.9 kill percentage) and 62 (a 62.0 kill percentage) kills.
That means opponents can’t stack Romp’s side of the net to try and neutralize her power. Romp also is the top server, with 25 aces, although Beliiicia Esquivias is right there with 23. Romp is second with 34 blocks behind the 6-1 Chambers’s 41. And Romps leads with 67 digs.
When it comes to ball handling, senior Courtney Brookover has 222 assists and is ably complemented by sophomore Esquivias with 45.
It all makes for a balanced squad that can attack all across the front line, play hard-nosed defense and adeptly pass out of just about any situation.
Adams credits her staff, which now includes assistant coach Mike Thompson – who led the Demonettes to state championships in 1994 and 1996 – with helping get the team moving in the right direction. The staff also features long-time club coaches Ricardo Sanchez and Paul Sandoval, and junior-varsity coach Adam Rubel, who also works with the varsity.
“I’m surrounded by a lot of really great coaches, and we are all super committed to the program and to bringing in the work ethic, getting the girls to really buy into the culture of working hard, seeing how that will ultimately will pay off,” Adams said. “Once you do that for a year, you can really see that starting to pay off.”
Indeed, those paydays are starting to come pretty quickly and are not likely to end any time soon.
“Because we’re all so dedicated and believe in what we’re doing, the athletes also do,” Adams said. “Everybody wants to win and we had a great season, making it to state, taking second in district. Those are great milestones. Those were the goals we set for ourselves. That’s not going to be enough this year. We want to be a contender, and we have the talent and put in the work, and if we stay disciplined as a program, we’ll be able to compete with anybody.”