Sandy Fortner is part of a dominating front line for the Fort Sumner Vixens. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Grady and Fort Sumner enter the Class 1A state volleyball tournament from different vantage points.
The Vixens have made Albuquerque a second home in November, having gone to the state tournament the past four years, including a championship in 2000.
With the help four-year starting setter Leslie Wood, the Vixens (20-3) have spiked their way to the state tournament with the hitting of Kayla Britain, Tobea Patterson and Sandy Fortner. They knocked off three-time defending state champion Des Moines for the top seed out of Region A. Fort Sumner coach Lisa McMath and Grady coach Missi Glover consider the Demons to be one of the favorites for the championship.
Meanwhile, the Lady Bronchos (18-2) are the unknown in this year’s tournament. After not making it out of district last season, Grady is making their first state appearance since 1996 under new coach Missi Glover.
Of the eight state tournament teams, the Lady Bronchos have played only district foe Logan. Glover said the ignorance will play to their advantage. “I think we’ll be overlooked,” Glover said.
Glover has stressed fundamentals from the beginning with her team.
She said her players are state tournament-tough, even if their experience is with a different sport.
“I’m hoping that a little bit of that experience that they gained last year in basketball will carry over into this volleyball season,” she said earlier this season.
Pool play starts this morning at Del Norte High School. In pool play, teams play three matches of two games to 15 points to determine seeds in the single elimination tournament that starts Thursday afternoon.
With the games only going to 15, the importance of each point is magnified and errors are more costly. McMath is especially concerned about service errors for her team. “There’s not room for error on our part,” McMath said.
Glover said her team must keep up their intensity and aggressiveness, which was missing at times in their regional win last weekend, especially on defense.
“Everybody else up there can play, so it will be who wants it the most, who plays the hardest (who will win),” she said.
“If you’re not ready, you could get picked off right away,” Glover concurred.
Besides Des Moines, both McMath and Glover consider Tatum and the Vixens as state title contenders.
“If we play to our potential, we have a great chance,” McMath said.