Senior outside hitter has fallen in love with volleyball under second-year coach

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KIRTLAND — Quiet and reserved off the court, Kirtland Central senior Alex Cambridge was once the same way on the court for the Lady Broncos volleyball team.

But since Nadia Watson took over as the team's head coach last year, Cambridge has developed a passion for volleyball she lacked as an underclassman.

“Volleyball was something I liked, but when I was playing my first two years, it seemed like, ‘I’m just here to play,’” Cambridge said. “I didn’t fall in love with it until Coach Nadia came, and now I just wish she was my coach the whole time.”

Cambridge, an outside hitter and one of the team captains, joined the varsity squad late in her freshman season. That year, KC went 8-13. In her sophomore season, the Lady Broncos were 7-12.

Watson's hiring sparked a culture change that brought out the best in Cambridge.

“Coach (Brian) Joe was a really good coach, but it didn’t seem like he really pushed us,” Cambridge said of the team's coach before Watson. “We fought hard and all, but it didn’t really feel like the best was brought out of us until Coach Nadia got here.”

A libero for much of her sophomore year, Cambridge initially seemed lost on the court, Watson said.

“She had some trouble finding her footing when she was younger,” Watson said. “The team wasn’t that great. And in the past they had some really good hitters in front of her. So when I got here, the thing was, I wanted her to adapt to what I wanted her to do, and I wanted her to learn to play every position. And she has.”

In Watson’s first year as head coach last year, KC went 16-6, and the team is 11-5 this year. With a 6-2 district record, the Lady Broncos could win District 1-4A if they close out the season on a high note.

Cambridge has responded well to Watson's competitive nature. After a couple of years of going through the motions, Cambridge has now devoted herself to volleyball, so much so that she puts in extra work after practices on a regular basis, something she didn't do in her first few years.

Watson said her star player doesn’t really stand out on the court, but the coach means that in a positive way.

“She kind of blends in because she is just so consistent across the board,” Watson said. “She’s very savvy, she’ll find open spots, she’ll get the ball where she needs to. She’s just good across the board.”

Watson estimated Cambridge racks up 12 digs and 5 aces per game. She’s also a great server.

“Her serves are just killer,” Watson said. “She starts out our serves because she’s one of the very best servers we have.”

On Oct. 20, the Lady Broncos pulled off a huge upset by going into Wingate High School and beating the No. 3 ranked Bears, who had previously only lost once this season.

In that game, amidst a rowdy environment, Cambridge was vocal in huddles between sets and points. A naturally quiet person, she has gradually become more of a vocal leader, rather than a lead-by-example type.

That transformation has taken time, according to Watson.

“She’s just so quiet, and we’ve been trying to work on that,” Watson said. “In the Wingate game, she was yelling a lot when she had to, and she was communicating my point to the rest of the girls on the floor. It was really good to see.”

Shiprock (13-5, 7-1) will come into Bronco Arena on Tuesday to play the Lady Broncos in a pivotal match. Shiprock defeated Kirtland 3-1 on Oct. 8 in Shiprock, but the Lady Broncos were dealing with a multitude of injuries at the time.

Now, with a healthy roster, Cambridge said she’s excited about the rematch.

“Shiprock, they’re a really tough to team to beat, that’s going to be a fun one,” Cambridge said. “Coach Nadia will have us prepared.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

A closer look: Alex Cambridge

1. Favorite team?

"Denver Broncos."

2. Favorite athlete?

"Serena Williams."

3. Favorite food?

"Chicken alfredo."

4. Favorite movie?

"Mad Max."

5. Favorite subject in school?

"English."

6. Least favorite subject?

"Math."

7. Biggest fear?

"Spiders. I can't stand them."

8. Do you play any other sports?

"Track and field, and I'm going to try out for cheerleading this year."

9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?

"Pay for college and help out my mom."

10. Do you have any pregame rituals?

"We pray as a team."

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