Lady Cats make progress

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Clovis High School junior Meagan Baglien gets set to serve against Portales during a scrimmage on Saturday at Rock Staubus Gym.

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Don’t get Clovis High volleyball coach Darrel Ray wrong: His team is still pretty young.

But these Lady Wildcats aren’t nearly as raw anymore.

Clovis begins its 2007 season tonight at Roswell High. Later this week, the Lady Cats host their annual 16-team invitational.

It’s only been around nine months since the ’06 season ended for Clovis — at the hands of Eldorado in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament. But quite a bit can happen in that amount of time.

“We’ve got a lot more experience playing all the way across the line,” Ray said. “And we’re very, very athletic. We were good last year, but these kids are growing up and they’re stronger. With them having more experience, through the playing time they had last year and what they did in the summer, they just know where they’re at and know what they’re doing.”

The biggest graduation losses for Clovis were in form of outside hitter Siobhan Flatow and setter Britni Montague. In a way, junior Meagan Baglien will replace both.

Baglein will physically take over Montague’s spot as the team’s setter and, vocally, will help replace the charismatic leadership of Flatow.

“Siobhan was the district player of the year and very enthusiastic,” Ray said. “She fell into the role of leader very naturally. This time, our setter falls into that mantle. Meagan is very chatty, very positive and does a good job of keeping things under control — calling everything that we at the bench want to have called offensively and defensively.”

Baglein said she’s ready to take that role.

“It’s not a problem for me at all,” she said. “I love that spot. I love being in control.

“I like being the team leader. I don’t mind it at all.”

Much of the returning hitting strength for Clovis is in the middle, where 6-foot senior Jasmine McDonald and 5-foot-9 sophomore Antiesha Brown will swing away. Both were in the varsity rotation last year.

“We have a lot of athletic hitters, and our passing is pretty good too,” said McDonald, who finished third in last year’s Class 5A state high jump competition. “If we do our best, we should go far.”

At the left outside hitting position, attacks will come from juniors Lainey Flatow and Arquitia Jernigan. Senior Haleigh Marshall is expected to be on the front line as a rightside hitter, while junior Adrianna Aguilar and senior Samantha Ramos will be the team’s primary defensive specialists in the back row.

As a team goal, McDonald said the Lady Cats should aim to be a little more like their new setter.

“We need to be more talkative, because we’re a little quiet,” she said. “We need to bond a little bit more, because right now we’re not quite used to each other on the court. We just need to get to know each other.”

If that happens, the Clovis coach should be able to enjoy much of the offensive sets his team runs.

“You put Jas at the net and Lainey at the net, if you set it correctly, they can tattoo that 10-foot line,” Ray said. “They get oohs and aahs in practice. They’re both very capable of wowing a crowd and embarrassing a defense.”