Prep Newsmaker: PV's Begay is model of consistency
FARMINGTON — This season, the Piedra Vista volleyball team has competed in three tournament, and all three times, Autumn Begay was named to the all-tournament team for her outstanding play.
The senior has been so consistent during her three varsity seasons that PV coach Ron Becker said he can’t even pinpoint her standout moments on the court.
“She’s a very consistent hitter. She really just stands out for being a constant,” Becker said. “It’s very rarely that she misses and very rarely that she gets the ball and doesn’t put it down.”
At the Rio Rancho Jamboree Tournament this weekend, PV landed in eighth place. In their previous two tournaments this month — one in Santa Fe and one at PV — the Lady Panthers were the runners up. Becker said mental lapses against top-tier teams played a part in PV’s demise in the first two tournaments.
To combat that, Becker recently extended practices to make them more challenging. And Begay has uplifted the team, leading by example when the Lady Panthers get in a rut.
“During games, I try to give the girls positive feedback when they do something good, and if they make a mistake, I’ll say, ‘OK, just relax,’ and just try to ease them,” she said. “Those times are when I really focus on putting a ball down if it comes to me to get the momentum back.”
Piedra Vista’s top middle hitter has had extra motivation this season. After a tremendous 2013 season as a sophomore in which she led PV in blocks and serving percentage, Begay missed more than two months as a junior last year because of a nagging ankle injury.
But according to Becker, Begay has played at such a high level this year that it doesn’t looked like she’s missed a beat. Begay plays middle hitter, a position that’s expected to register kills while also slowing down opposing offenses by blocking.
“She really does everything that a middle hitter should do, and she does it all well,” Becker said. “Now, after playing on varsity for a couple years, she’s more mature. She’s put it all together.”
Begay said she was eager to get back on the court and make up for lost time after her injury.
“I didn’t have much experience as a sophomore, so I looked up to the older girls more, then last year I was injured,” Begay said. “So this year as a senior, I just want to show everyone and my teammates that I’m willing to do anything possible to make us better.”
Begay’s versatility and determination has been evident to her coach.
“Autumn is really good hitting-wise, she has a knack for getting the ball to the floor,” Becker said. “She knows when to hit, knows when to tip and knows where to put the ball. She can also read where the hitters are coming from and read their angles. And that’s been really beneficial to her blocking.”
As consistent as Begay is at volleyball, she is also one of the better softball players in the state. This spring, she was the only player in District 1-5A named to the 5A all-state softball team.
Although Becker said he keeps in contact with a volleyball coach at Dartmouth University — a Division I school — who has expressed interest in Begay, the senior has already verbally committed to Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz., to play softball.
Begay said she will likely major in business.
A closer look: Autumn Begay
1. Favorite team?
“Arizona State University (softball and volleyball).”
2. Favorite athlete?
3. Favorite food?
4. Favorite movie?
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
8. Do you play any other sports?
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
“Buy my cheii (grandfather) a Corvette.”
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
“I like to watch highlight videos and say a prayer.”
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.