Thu Jun 23rd, 2016
It’s ironic that in such a high-flying sport as volleyball, one of the most vital players on a team often stays completely grounded, lucky to even attempt takeoff if given the opportunity to serve.
That was Chrystianne Valdez at Ignacio High School, particularly in her junior 2014 and senior 2015 seasons in which she dwelled mainly in the Lady Bobcats’ back row, known for both her leaping jump-serves as well as down-to-earth defense as the team’s libero.
And for the very near future that doesn’t seem likely to change – pretty much the way Fort Lewis College head coach Kelley Rifilato had envisioned it when pursuing the Class 2A local, a four-year starter.
“I went up there, tried out with the team,” Valdez said during an interview late in the ’15-16 basketball season. “It was the best experience I’ve ever had playing volleyball, with such amazing athletes. And the next week, like four days later, I had a meeting with her and she said, ‘How would you [like] to play for my team?’”
“I was thrilled,” Valdez said.
Count proud parents Chris and Cindy in there as well, when their daughter made her decision to continue her student-athlete career as near to Ignacio as possible, at the NCAA Division II level for the Skyhawks as part of a recruiting Class of 2016.
“I told her I’d talk to my parents … and a few weeks ago I verbally committed! So that’s where I’ll be next year … playing volleyball for Kelley Rifilato; that’s a great honor.”
“Chrystianne is a local multisport athlete that will come in and bring excellent foot speed to the defensive specialist position,” said Rifilato. “She possesses a strong serve and serve-reception game.”
Defensively for Rifilato in ’15, junior DS/L Ally Dell’Amico led FLC in digs with 429 (4.47 per game), with freshman OH and team MVP Matisse Monty following with 302 (3.15 per). Redshirt-freshman DS Clara Salopek saw plenty of action, coming up with 87 digs in 17 match appearances, and now-graduated senior DS Lindley Gallegos finished her career with 436 in 81.
“Libero … that’s where I’m going to be,” said Valdez, who came up with 262 reported digs and 568 receptions (against just 46 errors) as a senior, helping IHS go 15-9 in ’15. “They have two senior liberos, so they haven’t decided if they’re going to redshirt me yet or not, but I’m excited whether or not I do!”
Looking to improve upon a 5-21 (2-16 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) season ended by seven consecutive losses, FLC’s 2016 will begin with a trip to San Marcos, Calif., to face Denver-based Johnson & Wales University on Sept. 2, beginning the CSU-San Marcos Invitational.
The ’Hawks will also face Santa Barbara, Calif.-based NAIA Westmont College later in the day, then do a double on the 3rd against Sonoma State (Rohnert Park, Calif.) University and the tournament-hosting Cougars.
A trip to Wichita Falls, Tex., then follows for the Sept. 9-10 Midwestern State University Hampton Inn-vitational, at which Fort Lewis will again face four opponents including the hosting Mustangs on Day 1 at 11:30 a.m. Southeastern Oklahoma (Durant, Okla.) State University then awaits at 4:30 p.m., and Day 2 opposition will be Southern Nazarene (Bethany, Okla.) University and Emporia (Kan.) State University.
RMAC action then gets underway in South Dakota with FLC visiting South Dakota M&T in Rapid City on the 16th, then Black Hills State in Spearfish on the 17th. And finally, Fort Lewis’ home opener is slated for Sept. 23 against UC-Colorado Springs (16-12, 11-7 RMAC in 2015) at 7:00 p.m., with NCAA Tournament-qualifying MSU-Denver (20-12, 14-4) coming to Whalen Gymnasium for a 7 p.m. start the next night.
Having earned multiple Superintendent’s Awards at Ignacio for her academic efforts and resulting grade-point average, Valdez – a four-sport prep – will be joining an athletic department whose 14 varsity programs (and cycling club team) combined for an impressive 3.05 GPA during the 2015-16 year.
That mark was .02 points higher than in ’14-15 and the fifth time since 2006-07 that the Skyhawks registered a 3.00 or better collectively.