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Coaches Make History

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Women-Led Boys Teams Meet in APS Metro Consolation Bracket

Let the record show that a tiny slice of Albuquerque prep history was made on a hot Friday afternoon on the West Side.

The significance of the day was perhaps best summarized by Jessica Villalobos.

“It was really cool,” she said, “to see another woman on the sidelines.”

The consolation bracket of the Albuquerque Metro Soccer Championships had a very unusual twist unfolding on one of the upper fields that most fans probably weren’t aware of — a matchup between Villalobos’ Atrisco Heritage Academy Jaguars and Albuquerque Academy.

It was distinctive for this reason: both boys teams have women as head coaches. And Friday was possibly the first time in the state’s history — at the very least, in Albuquerque’s history — that two women went head-to-head in a major boys team sport.

On Friday, it was Laney Kolek’s Chargers 1, Villalobos’ Jaguars 0.

“I think more than anything, I don’t think of it as women coaching,” said Kolek, 36, of this shared special moment. “I think of it as coaches coaching.”

The two women were already familiar with each other before Friday’s historic encounter. Kolek was coaching Academy’s junior varsity at the same time in 2008 that Villalobos was coaching the Jaguars’ JV.

Kolek was promoted during the offseason to take over at Academy. While the two schools will meet twice later this season in district play, the two teams stumbled onto one another in one of the consolation brackets at the metro tournament.

“It was definitely neat,” said Kolek, who was rushing out of the APS Complex on Friday to catch a flight to Phoenix, where she was planning to attend a Sade concert. “You can’t deny that there was a uniqueness to it.”

While it is not possible to be 100 percent certain, none of the veteran coaches the Journal spoke to could recall such a coaching matchup in any other major boys team sport, including basketball, football and baseball.

Villalobos and Kolek are not the first women coaching boys’ sports, and they’re not even the first to coach boys soccer. Ann Cernicek was the coach at Los Alamos for many seasons before she stepped down several years ago.

Neither Kolek nor Villalobos treated Friday’s game as anything out of the ordinary. They had a cordial meeting before the game, and a quick chat after.

“It was a fun game to watch and coach,” said Kolek, whose team prevailed despite having a handful of players out due to suspension. Those players are expected to miss the entire month of September.

But Academy should be back at full strength by Oct. 4, which is when the Jaguars (2-3) and Chargers (3-2) are due to play each other for the first time in district.

“I’m glad Laney has joined (me) in (coaching),” said Villalobos, 30.

Kolek enjoyed success with the Academy JV, but admitted there was “a little bit of fear in them not accepting me” in taking over the varsity team.

But the experience, Kolek said, has been rewarding.

“As soon as I stepped on the field, there was a line of respect,” Kolek said. “It takes a certain person to do this.”

Both women said they probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate the significance of Friday until much later.

“You always look at the journey,” Kolek said. “These guys have taught me so much in so many ways. I wasn’t expecting this. I’d always coached girls, but when I crossed the line and coached the guys, it’s been just a gift.”

Said Villalobos: “Laney is a quality coach. I knew it would be a fun time, especially since we’re in the same district.”

“What a neat lady,” Kolek said of Villalobos. “I know she is a teacher and she is very educated, and the way she is translating that into coaching is a great thing.”

And with that, Kolek got up to go catch her flight. Before that, she hugged Villalobos.

Coach to coach.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal