SMALL-SCHOOL STATE VOLLEYBALL: Texico matures quickly

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

In 28 years as Texico’s volleyball coach, Mike Littlejohn said his 2006 squad is the youngest and least experienced he’s coached.

The Lady Wolverines (19-3) start two freshmen, three juniors and a senior, with only two of the players having varsity experience.

So much for the importance of experience.

The Lady Wolverines are among the favorites in the Class 2A state tournament in Albuquerque entering today’s pool play.

Littlejohn said this year’s squad is comparable to his 2001 state championship team, which started three freshmen, in terms of teamwork and chemistry.

“I knew that we were going to be good, but I had no idea record-wise we’d be playing as well as we are,” Littlejohn said. “The chemistry has really been unbelievable. The older kids have really taken the younger ones under their wings. And the younger ones have been very perceptive to what we’ve taught them.”

The teams also share bloodlines.

Junior setter Bryn Mayfield’s sister, Dru, played in 2001 and so did freshman hitter Victoria Richards’ sister, Elizabeth. Both can be seen in a picture hanging below the school’s gymnasium scoreboard.

Richards said she’s been surprised by Texico’s success.

“We lost six seniors last year,” Richards said. “And then there were four of us freshmen coming up. I just wasn’t prepared for (the success).”

The teams will be seeded after pool play, with bracket play starting Thursday.

Top-ranked Estancia, which beat Texico in two of three matches during the season, is another favorite.

Clovis Christian (17-5) has also battled through inexperience.

Lady Eagles coach Ceil Boatman said that while her team seemed sluggish in a sweeping Wagon Mound last weekend in the first round of the Class 1A state tournament, their excitement level is high and mixed with a bit of nerves.

“We’ll approach the game the same way we’ve done all year,” Boatman said. “They’ll have to find their rhythm and play our style of ball to control the momentum.”

Fort Sumner coach Lisa McMath said the Vixens (15-7) will look to bring the same intensity and strong passing from their first-round win over Victory Christian into today’s pool play in Albuquerque.

“I think the team is very nervous, but also excited,” McMath said. “We just need to use that nervous energy to our advantage.”