5A STATE VOLLEYBALL: Lady Cats confident

Clovis High’s Lainey Flatow, left, watches Tuesday as Tori Northcutt boards a bus that will take the team to the Class 5A state volleyball tournament in Albuquerque. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports wrier

With some inexperienced players on its roster, the Clovis High volleyball team wasn’t sure what to expect when the season started in late August.

Now, the Lady Wildcats hope they’ve positioned themselves to make a run at a Class 5A state title when 12-team pool play begins today at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque.

“I think we have a good chance,” senior defensive specialist Maria Gallegos said. “We’re just like a family.

“I think we’ve progressed a lot this season.”

The Lady Cats (13-8) are scheduled for five, two-game matches in Pool B this morning, beginning at 8 a.m. against La Cueva (18-3). Results today will determine seeds for bracket play beginning Thursday morning.

CHS coach Darrel Ray said his team’s pool is well-balanced, with no clear-cut favorite.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to go through unscathed, and I don’t think anybody’s going to lose every game either,” he said.

Clovis will also face Cibola (15-6), Manzano (15-6), Gadsden (14-8) and Mayfield (13-9) in pool play this morning.

“Of those six teams (in the pool), I think the two teams with the worst records (Clovis and Mayfield) have probably played the hardest schedules,” Ray said.

Ray said the tournament favorite is probably Rio Rancho (20-1), a team he thinks is likely to win Pool A over Las Cruces High (17-4) and Eldorado (16-6). Other teams in that pool are Hobbs (11-10), Onate (10-12) and Sandia (7-14).

The Lady Cats started the season a bit slowly, losing a number of matches against Texas teams, but they are carrying a five-match winning streak into the state meet.

“We hung in there from the very beginning and became stronger,” said Gallegos, who also acknowledged that “we didn’t think it was going to be that hard early” in the season.

Ray said the Lady Cats have gained confidence as the season winds down.

“I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “I think everybody in (Clovis’) pool will trade games. I think we’re better off for what we went through last year.”

The top two seeds in each pool get byes through Thursday’s first-round matches.