Lady Scorps driven by 'gut-wrenching' end to 2017

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com
Bergen Campbell puts down a kill attempt during Farmington volleyball practice Thursday at Scorpion Arena. Campbell, Alyssa Simmons and JJ Curry are key returners on offense entering 2018.

FARMINGTON – It had been two decades since Farmington had such stellar results on the volleyball court, which is why the tail end of 2017 didn’t sit well at all with the Lady Scorpions.

Farmington (19-4 last year) won its first district regular season title in 20 years, later capturing the district tournament title to secure the No. 4 seed in the 5A playoffs. Hopes of building on that great run were quickly dashed, as FHS struggled in pool play before being swept by Roswell in the first round.

“Very gut-wrenching. It was just a sick feeling,” coach Alana Rowland said. “I just hope the girls can learn from that and remember how it felt, not to ever want to feel that way again.”

FHS doesn't want 2017 to repeat itself, given the window for another potential tournament run remains wide open in 2018.

Outside hitter Alyssa Simmons said that because it had been a long time since FHS had such a great campaign, it was, perhaps, different territory for the group.

“Maybe some girls weren’t as mentally prepared as they should’ve been, or didn’t expect (that tough competition). Maybe the nerves got into their heads,” Simmons said. “It was definitely heartbreaking for most of us because we expected to go pretty far in the state tournament. I can’t really pinpoint what happened.”

Farmington will still push the pace on both sides of the court. FHS especially looks to speed things up a bit more passing the ball, but Rowland said Farmington also must lower those passes up front.

“Our passing last year was way too high,” Rowland said. “If that pass is too high and the set’s too high, that gives the opposing team way more time to camp out and wait for a block.”

Despite losing setter Monica Briones and right-side hitter Donna Hall to graduation, Farmington’s key group is largely intact. Simmons, outside hitter Bergen Campbell and middle hitter JJ Curry return to the floor this fall.

“We’re hoping to make a change and make it further (at state) this year,” Campbell said. “We just all got in our heads (at state last year). We’ve just got to keep cool and play our game like we know we can.”

Farmington’s district will feature crosstown rival Piedra Vista, as well as Eldorado, West Mesa and state volleyball heavyweight La Cueva. All four moved back to down 5A after the New Mexico Activities Association eliminated Class 6A.

“If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Rowland said.

Farmington will open 2018 at Durango High on Aug. 28, and it’s hungry to finally go all the way.

“Why not us?” Rowland asked. “As long as we stay on track and work as one cohesive unit and support each other, why not us?”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.