Vixens look to replace graduation losses

Clovis Christian School practices Thursday at the school in Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

You may need a program to know who’s out there this season for the Fort Sumner volleyball team.

The defending Class 1A state champions graduated the bulk of their talent from last year’s 23-3 squad which edged Tatum in five games in the title match.

Still, coach Darrell Chenault of District 3-1A rival Elida doesn’t see the Vixens dropping off that much.

“Fort Sumner is still the top dog (in the district), followed by Melrose,” he said. “The rest of us could end up playing for third place.”

Only senior Lindsey Mansell and junior Julie Wood saw significant action on last year’s Fort Sumner squad. But coach Lisa McMath said she thinks her team will get better as the season progresses.

“A lot of kids have to develop and step up their level of play, and some of the girls will have to change their roles,” she said. “But I think as they adapt (to varsity play), we’ll be a better team.”

With no seniors on his roster, Chenault played down Elida’s chances at dethroning Fort Sumner in the district, but said the Lady Tigers (16-7, 6-2 district in 2004) could be formidable.

“We’re going to be young and inexperienced, but I really think we’ve got about eight girls that can play,” he said. “As they get more experience, we’ll get better.”

Tandee Delk, who led Melrose to a 1A state runnerup finish in 2000, is returning to the sideline at Floyd after a two-year hiatus. She thinks the Lady Broncos may be heard from in District 3-1A.

“I have good athletes,” she said. “The girls are hard workers. I’m excited about this year. We have a good group of leaders.”

Grady also made a strong showing in 1A last season, rolling through District 4-1A and reaching the state quarterfinals before losing to Fort Sumner.

The Lady Bronchos have some holes to fill from graduation, second-year coach Missi Glover said.

“We’ve just got to focus on fundamentals and see how it goes,” she said. “I think we can be competitive in our district. (Her team) went into last year knowing they could win (district) if they played the way they could.”

Clovis Christian, in just its second year of eligibility for the NMAA playoffs, hopes to be able to challenge Grady and Logan in the district.

The Lady Eagles were buoyed by the return of senior setter Mollie Peterson, who sat out volleyball in 2004 to work on her golf game. She finished fifth in the 3-1A state golf tournament in May.

“I’ve got a good group of girls,” veteran CCS coach Ceil Boatman said. “I just feel blessed to be able to work with them.”

Perennial Class 2A contender Texico lost four seniors from last year’s squad, but longtime Lady Spikers coach Mike Littlejohn thinks his team can make a run at the 2A state tournament in November.

Littlejohn, beginning his 27th season, has led Texico to four state championships — the most recent in 2001 — and five runnerup finishes.

“Since we won it, we’ve been in the top two or three teams in (2A) every year,” he said. “We’ve been close, but like I told this group, ‘It’s nice to be in the top three or four, but now we need to take the next step.’”

Texico went 18-4 last season, losing in five games to Estancia in the regional semifinals, and finished 6-0 in District 6-2A. The Lady Spikers will build around seniors Lori Richardson and Erika Autrey, both third-year starters.

“I feel like we’re in the top four or five again,” Littlejohn said. “I feel we’ve got a little extra incentive to get there (after falling short the past couple of years).”

Area capsules
Clovis Christian Lady Eagles
Coach: Ceil Boatman (11th year)
2004 record: 8-11 (3-5 district, 3rd)
Top returnees: Tasha Daale, 5-11, Sr., middle hitter; Sam Barnett, 5-8, Sr., outside hitter; Jenna Burgin, 5-4, Sr., outside hitter
Last time in postseason: none.
Coach Boatman says: “We’re looking to make it to state. Some of these girls have a lot of years behind them. If we put forth the effort and are diligent, we’ve got as good a shot at it as anyone.”

Dora Lady Coyotes
Coach: Myra Skinner (6th year)
2004 record: n/a
Top returnees: Rana Terry, 5-8, Sr., outside hitter; Jennifer Bolin, 5-6, Sr., defensive specialist; Jennifer Davis, 5-7, Sr., outside hitter; Julissa Melendez, 5-5, So., setter.
Last time in postseason: 2000, lost in regionals.
Coach Skinner says: “We’re looking at what combinations will work the best. We’ve got a lot of things to try before we find something we really like.”

Elida Lady Tigers
Coach: Darrell Chenault (5th year)
2004 record: 16-7 (6-2 district, 2nd)
Top returnees: Janice Taylor, 5-9, So., outside hitter; Lindsey Ward, 5-7, Jr., setter; Alicia Smith, 5-8, Jr., outside hitter.
Last time in postseason: 2004, lost to Des Moines in five games in regional semifinals.
Coach Chenault says: “Our goal is to be a contender by the end of the year.”

Faith Triumphant Lady Conquerors
District: independent
Jessica Van Leuven (1st year)
2004 record: did not field a team due to lack of numbers.
Top returnees: Victoria Payen, 5-4, Sr., setter; Cassie Paden, 5-6, Jr., outside hitter. Rest of team consists of freshman and junior high players. The Lady Conquerors will play a JV schedule.
Last time in postseason: none.
Coach Van Leuven says: “Not having played last year, we’ll rely our older girls. Our goal is always to win, but I think this year is a building year for us. We need to get some experience.”

Floyd Lady Broncos
Coach: Tandee Delk (1st year)
2004 record: 8-11 (1-7 district)
Top returnees: Darcee Chenault, 5-9, Sr., middle hitter; Rebecca Blue, 5-7, Sr., outside hitter; Carlee Dement, 5-7, Sr., outside hitter; Kelli Johnson, 5-7, Sr., setter.
Last time in postseason: 1999, lost in regionals.
Coach Delk says: “We’ve got a good group of leaders. As long as (the players) believe in themselves, they can do it. They can go as far as they want to go.”

Fort Sumner Vixens
Coach: Lisa McMath (14th year)
2004 record: 23-3 (8-0 district)
Top returnees: Julie Wood, 5-7, Jr., outside hitter/setter; Lindsey Mansell, 5-7, Sr., outside hitter; Alex Owens, 5-6, Jr., outside hitter.
Last time in postseason: 2004, beat Tatum in five games for Class 1A state championship.
Coach McMath says: “Tatum will be favored (in 1A). They have every girl back (from last year), and they gave us a run for our money.”

Grady Lady Bronchos
Coach: Missi Glover (2nd year)
2004 record: 18-3 (8-0 district)
Top returnees: Heather Blackburn, 5-6, Sr., outside hitter; Aerial Verble, 5-7, Jr., outside hitter; Kat Grau, 5-7, So., outside hitter.
Last time in postseason: 2004, lost to Fort Sumner in state quarterfinals.
Coach Glover says: “I think we can be competitive in our district. (Her players) went into it last year knowing they could win it if we played the way they could.”

Melrose Lady Buffaloes
Coach: Jason Lee (2nd year)
2004 record: 9-13 (2-6 district)
Top returnees: Kelly Fish, 5-5, Sr., setter; Zanessa Dodd, 5-7, Jr., setter; Toni Burdine, 5-11, So., middle blocker; Taneal Roberts, 5-8, So., outside hitter.; Alisha Wagler, 5-7, Jr., defensive specialist.
Last time in postseason: 2001, finished second in Class 1A state tournament.
Coach Lee says: “We have a good, young team. We just have to work hard. The district is wide open — last year, everyone (besides Fort Sumner) was playing for second.”

Texico Lady Spikers
Coach: Mike Littlejohn (27th year)
2004 record: 18-4 (6-0 district)
Top returnees: Lori Richardson, 5-8, Sr., outside hitter; Erika Autrey, 5-11, Sr., middle blocker; Bryn Mayfield, 5-3, So., setter; Stephanie Bailey, 5-8, Sr., outside hitter.
Last time in postseason: 2004, lost to Estancia in five games in regional semifinals.
Coach Littlejohn says: “We’re going to miss our four (graduated) seniors, their leadership and, probably mostly, their serving and passing.”

—Compiled by Dave Wagner