Local volleyball teams set for state tourneys

Karl Schneider
Navajo Prep's Leshauntai Adams (9) blocks a hit on Saturday during a game against Rehoboth Christian at the Eagles Nest in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Four San Juan County teams will begin their quests for state titles when the state volleyball tournaments begin Thursday in Rio Rancho.

Navajo Prep, Piedra Vista, Kirtland Central and Shiprock all made the field in their respective classes.

Prep (15-2) comes in as the highest seeded team from the area, garnering the No. 2 overall seed in the 3A tournament.

With the second seed, the Lady Eagles land in pool B with No. 7 Tularosa (13-6) and No. 11 Estancia (11-12).

Prep and Estancia met on Oct. 3 at the Santa Fe Indian School tournament, where the Lady Eagles won 3-0.

“I don’t know too much about Tularosa. (Seeing) as we played Estancia earlier, we have an understanding of what they have, but they’ve gotten better since then, and we’ve gotten better, too,” Crisp said. “We need to play our volleyball and keep the momentum on our side.”

Crisp said the team is focusing on passing and serving so the Lady Eagles can finish first in the pool and receive a bye into the quarterfinals.

PV (17-4) is trying to make it to four straight state championships and will enter with the No. 6 seed in the 5A tournament. The Lady Panthers will play No. 3 Centennial and No. 10 Artesia in pool C.

Centennial beat PV in the 5A finals last year.

“The girls have a lot of motivation for Centennial,” PV head coach Ron Becker said. “When I told them who was in our pool, every girl was really excited. I’m really happy with their attitude, they’re all gung-ho to play (Centennial).”

Although PV didn’t play Centennial or Artesia during a regular season match, the Lady Panthers met both teams in pool play at tournaments during the season.

Piedra Vista's Autumn Begay gets a kill against Farmington on Nov. 7 at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

Becker said the mental aspect will be key for the Lady Panthers.

“If we keep our heads in it, we can beat anyone out there. The girls have the physical tools to beat anyone, they just need to stay mentally focused,” Becker said.

If No. 8 Kirtland Central (13-7) and No. 12 Shiprock (16-6) didn’t see enough of each other during the district schedule and tournament, the long-time rivals will get another crack at each other in pool play.

The two teams were placed in the 4A tournament's pool A, along with No. 1 seed and last year’s state title runner-up Sandia Prep (21-1).

During the season, KC and Shiprock met twice during the District 1-4A schedule, with the two sides splitting the series, and then again in the district tournament’s semifinals, where the Lady Chieftains came out victorious.

“Basically, knowing how they play is kind of an insight for us, but we also wish we could play someone we haven’t played before,” Shiprock head coach Teri Atcitty said.

KC head coach Nadia Watson shared similar feelings about pool A.

“I have mixed feeling about it. It could work in our favor or it couldn’t,” Watson said of seeing Shiprock in pool play. “Shiprock is tough. We’ve played them three times, and it came out 2-1 them. We beat (No. 3) Wingate twice, and Wingate beat Shiprock twice. What that tells me is we’re all pretty even, and I think we have a really good chance to do some damage this week.”

Kirtland Central's Krystal Sheka spikes the ball against Shiprock on Oct. 27 at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Watson hopes the experience of last year’s tournament, when the Lady Broncos matched up with eventual champion Ruidoso in the first round, will be beneficial to her team as it prepares for Sandia Prep.

Both Atcitty and Watson said the front row of Sandia Prep will present a challenge for their teams.

Prep and PV will begin pool play Thursday morning, while KC and Shiprock won’t get on the court until the afternoon.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.