Release the Beasts: Hungry V’cats to begin play

Ignacio freshman Grace Gonzales, right, puts up a block with senior Makayla Howell against Mancos during the recent Pirate Four Corners Scrimmages hosted by Pagosa Springs High School.
Ignacio senior Makayla Howell celebrates a point during a preseason practice inside IHS Gymnasium. She was named Second Team All-SJBL last year and will again be expected to be an on-court leader in 2019. Howell is one of just two seniors currently in the IHS Volleyball fold.
Ignacio senior Bella Pena passes the ball against Dolores during JV action inside Pagosa Springs Middle School’s Mamie Lynch Gymnasium during the recent PSHS-hosted Pirate Four Corners Scrimmages. Pena is one of just two seniors currently in the IHS Volleyball fold.
Ignacio freshman Grace Gonzales, right, puts up a block with senior Makayla Howell against Mancos during the recent Pirate Four Corners Scrimmages hosted by Pagosa Springs High School.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Preseason performance in Pagosa promising for ’19

Energetic to the point of wowing longtime head coach Thad Cano, the Volleycat varsity proved its readiness for the 2019 grind with an authoritative showing Saturday, August 24, at Pagosa Springs’ Pirate Four Corners Scrimmages.

“I was playing with lineups and everything, and the only match we struggled was with Pagosa,” he said afterwards. “And it wasn’t that they dominated; I just did a different lineup, trying to figure out the (team) dynamic. So that was probably our toughest match, and it wasn’t because of what Pagosa did, but what we’re trying to learn.”

One of ten schools present at the popular preseason tune-up, Ignacio saw action against six squads with each ‘match’ lasting 25 minutes. Beginning with 2A/1A San Juan Basin Leaguers Dove Creek in the 9 a.m. test, the ’Cats also went up against 3A Intermountain League members La Jara Centauri and Monte Vista, as well as SJBL rivals Dolores and Mancos before calling it a day shortly after 2 p.m.

Facing MHS in the final clash, IHS’ all-around play – highlighted by well-placed serving – produced a media-counted 40-26 win with the teams unknowingly forgetting to switch sides at the 12-minute mark of play. “Our serving is by far our best attribute,” Cano said. “We have a lot of work to do on our hitting errors … and we’ll need a little polishing on serve-receive, a little on our setting … And we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.”

Ignacio’s first official action is slated for Saturday, August 31, with a non-league triangular bringing both MVHS and Del Norte – ranked No. 7 in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll after finishing 2018 a State-qualifying 24-4 overall (Monte Vista, however, struggled and went just 1-21) – to town for a 10 a.m. start. The team will then begin league work Sept. 5 at Ridgway, then continue with a Sept. 12 visit to MHS before welcoming Ouray two days later.

“The Scrimmages … really gave me a great understanding of our team dynamic and which direction we need to go. The girls performed amazing,” stated Cano. “The team unity, the bonding … is amazing. With this team I really need to manage them very well; I haven’t had this much talent in a long time.”

“I’ve been putting pencil to paper … as a coach, and that’s going to be my biggest challenge: Balancing this team and having it peak at the right time.”

Additional dates highlighting this fall’s schedule are a Sept. 26 test at 3A Pagosa Springs, a journey to the Sept. 28 Simla Invitational, an Oct. 22 visit from SJBL nemesis Dolores (IHS visits DHS, 18-4 in ’18, first on Sept. 24), and an Oct. 29 home finale versus 3A Montezuma-Cortez – preceding a trip to the Nov. 1-2 Rye Invite and conclusion of regular-season action.

Senior Makayla Howell (named Second Team All-SJBL last season) led the varsity at the Scrimmages, and was joined on the day’s roster by juniors Marisa Carmenoros, Charlize Valdez, Ebonee Gomez (Honorable Mention All-SJBL), as well as sophomores Alexis Pontine and Lexy Young, plus freshman Grace Gonzales. A few other varsity or varsity/JV ‘swing’ players saw court time in Pagosa with assistant coach Shasta Pontine’s successful JV side.

Valdez and Young will be attempting to also represent Ignacio in cross-country as well this season, putting extra conditioning mileage on their legs as the Volleycat spikers focus on supplanting Dolores atop the SJBL standings and ultimately earning a trip to the State Championships in Denver.

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