Head coach Thad Cano couldn’t help but beam at the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 2A volleyball rankings when they were released Monday, August 14.
His Volleycats landed just outside the top ten, which was pleasing enough, but one fortunate inclusion – sixth-ranked Kremmling West Grand – had already learned at a summer engagement in Pagosa Springs what the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League already knows: Ignacio’s not to be taken lightly.
Despite Spring Commencement collecting regulars, Kelly Campbell and Alex Forsythe, among others, and despite lacking several players able to return in 2017, IHS had little trouble mangling the Lady Mustangs – who reached the 2A State Championships and finished 21-6 overall last year – for this simple reason, “I’m going to have guns at every position,” Cano said on Tuesday, while en route to IHS Gymnasium and the second official day of intense practices/tryouts. “And I can tell you this, I’ve never considered carrying twelve at the varsity level, but I’m actually considering it right now and just letting them battle for a starting position – let the cards fall as they may!”
Ignacio finished 7-14 overall in 2016 and unable to survive the District 3 Tournament, but successfully broke in sophomore talents Morgan Herrera and Makayla Howell into the primary varsity mix along with Forsythe, Campbell, and senior regular Avionne Gomez.
Senior Allisianna Baker, junior Kiana Valdez and junior Misty Egger, all of whom saw time either as varsity starters or reserves last fall, should all be back in the thick of the hunt to retain their roster spots, along with the setting duo of junior Heather Kerrigan and senior Shoshone Thompson.
“And not only that, we have some amazing, athletic young freshmen right now that are going through tryouts,” said Cano. “With the North American Indigenous Games in Canada, our summer participation was light. But we had a lot of young players that were able to play at a varsity level, and so the learning that they had during this time was amazing … a lot of great skills.”
Cano noted that initial participation numbers are impressive, with 37 in the building on day one – making for wide-open competition (he noted at least five potential middles, five potential outside hitters, and three setters) as well as a difficult selection process for not only the varsity, but also the JV and C squads.
“I’m not going to have to use a libero or defensive specialist because all their serve-receive, passing, defense is to where I don’t even need to look at a libero or DS … So I’ve got tough problems, but these are all amazing problems to have,” he said.
“We’re looking at it like, ‘Holy moly!’ It’s anybody’s game, and it’s going to be the little things that determine how players get placed.”
As of Tuesday morning, IHS’ schedule shows the varsity opening on Saturday, August 26, at home versus Pagosa Springs, the preseason #10 in Class 3A. SJBL work then begins on Sept. 7 at home versus Dove Creek, with Norwood and Telluride visiting for a triangular two days later.
The home-heavy early goings also include a home tri against Ouray and Ridgway – like Ignacio, an ‘Others Receiving Votes’ team in the 2A poll – on Sept. 16, then a trip to Mancos on Sept. 21 before the ’Cats leave for the competitive Simla Invitational on Sept. 23.
“Like I tell the girls, it’s going to be all about being a great teammate,” Cano said. “It’s going to be about who’s the loudest on the court, making the least amount of errors … We’re going to have a fantastic team – our serving is always there; we’re known throughout the state for how tough we serve – and right now, sky’s the limit!”