It should be an intriguing year on the volleyball court, as a few Northern schools entertain hopes of making deep runs into the state tournament, and a few others are rebounding from down seasons. Then there are the Española Valley Lady Sundevils, who are still adjusting to life without head coach Damon Salazar.
The Santa Fe High Demonettes see themselves as state contenders, and the pieces are there. They have a pair of strong hitters in Salome Romp and Laila Bernadino, a group of middle hitters that can create havoc and a senior setter with postseason experience in Courtney Overbrook. Capital could take a step forward with a senior laden group led by setter Molly McCann, explosive junior middle hitter Ethena Silva and its program staple — tough defense.
On paper, it appears to be a three-team race between Los Alamos, Pojoaque Valley and Española. But the Lady Sundevils are in the getting-to-know-you phase with head coach JuliAnn Martinez and appear to be more of a wild card. They do have perhaps the best hitter in the district in Dulce Maldonado. The Lady Hilltoppers are senior loaded, with setter Elise Olivas and outside hitter Natalie Gallegos leading the way. The Elkettes lost most of their back row, but Mikayla Padilla will lead a new group that should chase down everything. If the offense can become a touch more dynamic, the sky is the limit for Pojoaque. Taos graduated its best hitter in Faith Powell, but returns a squad heavy on seniors and sophomores.
Pencil in the usual suspects. St. Michael’s might have lost eight seniors to graduation, but All-State middle hitter Lilly Barker and senior outside hitter Molly Maestas return. If the junior varsity players stepping up fill those holes, the Lady Horsemen will continue to be formidable. Las Vegas Robertson could return to the 3A championship game behind the play of senior outside hitter Tessa Ortiz and senior setter Lauren Fulgenzi. Santa Fe Indian School is in a state of flux, as graduation and off-season departures hurt the roster. Junior Larissa Scott will step into the setter role, and Cameron Conners is the Lady Braves’ top returning hitter. Santa Fe Prep struggled through growing pains but lost only one senior. The Blue Griffins have a strong junior class led by Raelyn Gonzales, Rafaella Mark and India Cunningham.
Desert Academy looks to be the clear favorite, with senior outside hitter Michaela Glinsky and junior setter Sophia Nathanson leading the way. McCurdy has a strong front line and senior outside hitter Devyn Cordova is healthy after missing last year with a knee injury. Monte del Sol will continue to develop a strong sophomore class to surround all-everything Emi Fukuda. Tierra Encantada is young, with a crop of six sophomores providing the experience.
Escalante rolled through the district a year ago, but new head coach Angelica Baca takes over. She inherits a senior-loaded lineup led by outside hitter Zoe Archuleta, but needs to find a capable setter. Peñasco almost repeated it district tournament performance before losing to the Lady Lobos in the 5-5A finals, but they return middle hitter Carly Gonzales. Mora could make a leap back into the conversation with the return of head coach Jacquelyn Sanchez, who led the team to the 2016 2A title. Henry Gettler, who guided Escalante last year, will try to use his magic to help a senior-dominant Coronado team challenge his old team for the district title. Speaking of senior-loaded, Questa has six.
Pecos almost pulled off the impossible when it put eventual 2A champion Texico in a 2-0 hole in the 2A semifinals, but the Lady Panthers lost a lot of firepower in Faith Flores and Cassie Muller. What can they do for an encore? Well, junior Trinity Herrera can pick up some of the slack, as can senior Sativa Herrera.
The Lady Wolves of Santa Fe Waldorf lost legendary hitter Rose Moon, but seniors Nicoya Dant and Colibri Yellowhorse will try to fill that void. Meanwhile, Amiyah Dant will continue her development as a setter as Waldorf tries for an eighth straight district title. New Mexico School for the Deaf returns seniors Mya Malone and Lindsay Hand, who were their top two hitters, while Andrea Leyba will be the setter.