By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
The Clovis Invitational volleyball tournament has a recent history of two things — producing a champion that eventually wins a state title in its classification, and showcasing unusually talented small school teams.
Tatum fit both criteria last year as the Class 1A Lady Coyotes swept through the Clovis tourney and ran through their entire schedule undefeated.
This year’s tournament may be turned back over to the big schools, however, and host Clovis hopes it’ll be the one standing tall in the end.
“When you’re at home and hosting the tournament, if you’ve got any kind of talent at all, you fully expect to play better because everyone else is in the situation where they’re on your court and not in their own beds,” said Lady Wildcats coach Darrel Ray, whose team lost its opener to Frenship on Tuesday. “We always look to having the goal of getting into the championship game.”
The tournament will be played today and Saturday in Clovis, beginning with pool play today at four gyms. Pool A (Clovis, West Las Vegas, Dexter and Hobbs) will stage matches at Rock Staubus Gym while Pool B (Los Lunas, El Paso Bel Air, Lovington and St. Michael’s) will be played at the “Lego” gym at CHS.
Also at CHS, Pool C (Albuquerque Academy, Lubbock Christian, Tatum and Portales) will take place at the auxiliary (north) gym. Pool D (El Paso Del Valle, Arbor Christian, Fort Sumner and Artesia) will have preliminary play at Yucca Junior High.
Pool play begins at 8 a.m., with the top two teams from each moving into the Gold Bracket while the bottom two from each go into the Silver Bracket. Quarterfinals begin at 2 p.m. — the Gold semifinals at Rock Staubus, with the Silver semis in the north gym.
Academy and Portales appear to be strong favorites to reach the finals, along with the Lady Cats. Academy advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals last year, while Portales won the 3A state title.
“Albuquerque Academy’s bringing back most of their kids and they’ve got good size,” Ray said.
“I like them, and Portales looked good during the summer. Real early, they look like they’re playing good ball.”
Dexter and Amarillo Arbor Christian are new to the Clovis tournament, and the latter could be a factor for the overall championship, according to Ray.
“I think they’re going to be solid,” he said. “They’re just a couple of years removed from winning a church division in Texas. I really think that Bel Air is going to be a solid team, too.”
Pool A (Rock Staubus Gym): 1. West Las Vegas; 2. Clovis; 3. Hobbs; 4. Dexter.
Pool B (Lego gym): 1. Los Lunas; 2. El Paso Bel Air; 3. Lovington; 4. Santa Fe St. Michael’s.
Pool C (north gym): 1. Albuquerque Academy; 2. Lubbock Christian; 3. Tatum; 4. Portales.
Pool D (Yucca Junior High): 1. El Paso Del Valle; 2. Amarillo Arbor Christian; 3. Fort Sumner; 4. Artesia.
Friday’s pool play schedule
8 a.m. — 1 vs. 2; 8:50 a.m. — 3 vs. 4; 9:30 a.m. — 1 vs. 3; 10:10 a.m. — 2 vs. 4; 10:50 a.m. — 2 vs. 3; 11:30 a.m. — 1 vs. 4.