Ignacio Volleyball wants re-run of ’21

Ignacio Volleyball head coach Shasta Pontine (right) cracks a pre-match joke with assistant/JV coach Cindy Valdez inside IHS Gymnasium during the Fall 2021 season. The two will return to guide the postseason-minded Volleycats in 2022.
Ignacio's Laci Brunson (2) finds refreshment in between games of the Volleycats' road match at Norwood last fall. IHS' primary setter in Fall 2021, Brunson can return as a senior in '22.
Flanked by teammates Alexis Pontine (15) and Trinity Strohl (9), Ignacio’s Grace Gonzales (10) celebrates success during last season’s road match at Dolores. And while Pontine has graduated, both Gonzales and Strohl can return in 2022 as seniors.
Ignacio's Solymar Cosio (20) clutches the 2A-Region XII Tournament's championship plaque amidst the Volleycats' post-match celebration last season inside IHS Gymnasium. Cosio is one of many regulars who can return in 2022, and hopefully return IHS to the postseason … and possibly the CHSAA Class 2A State Championships again.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Team prepping for road-heavy slate early

Having raised the proverbial bar higher during the Fall 2021 season than any Ignacio Volleyball squad had in roughly a generation, the returning ’Cats will be eager to keep it there in ’22.

“They’re coming off a ‘high,’” second-year head coach Shasta Pontine said, alluding to IHS’ march to last fall’s CHSAA Class 2A State Championships held in Colorado Springs, “and hopefully they can continue with … building the Ignacio program. That’s what’s exciting. And I’m really looking forward to it, you know?”

Having already seen the Volleycats (19-8 overall in ’21) begin sharpening their skills at two team camps this summer, long before practices were to officially begin Monday, August 8, Pontine indicated she’d already seen much of the potential last season’s squad presented – and will again rely upon this season – to succeed.

“Adams State (University’s camp) was … just about kind of getting back into it, remembering that ‘Oh yeah, we know how to play volleyball,’” she recalled. “The first couple days were rough, but the third day we came together and played well.”

“Then Fort Lewis College’s was good. We lost only to Portales (17-9, NMAA Class 4A State qualifier in ’21) and Farmington (12-11, fourth place in NMAA District 2-5A), and I didn’t even have a full ‘varsity’ team – we filled it in with players who played JV last year – but it was good.”

“And then we had the Fort Lewis coaches come to Ignacio and do a one-day camp with some of the players,” Pontine noted. “That wasn’t very many – it was, like, six players – so it was very one-on-one.”

Definitely a plus, considering that vacancies left by graduated standouts Alexis Pontine and Lexy Young need filling.

“We’re going to have to replace a big outside and a big right-side … and we’ll probably have to find a new libero,” said Pontine, to be assisted this fall by returning junior-varsity coach Cindy Valdez plus new C-team coach Breana Talamante-Benavidez. “Key positions … but I don’t know; it just depends on who shows up Monday (8/8), you know?”

“Everything changes, and we’ll see what personnel we have … to go forward. See who we have, teach them what we can teach them, and do the best we can!”

Following a tune-up at 3A Pagosa Springs’ annual Pirate 4 Corners Scrimmages on Saturday, August 13, IHS will begin competition Tuesday, August 23, at 3A Montezuma-Cortez, then reverse course eastward to non-league 2A Del Norte on the 25th. 2A/1A San Juan Basin League work – in which the ’Cats went 8-0 against their 2A-level rivals last season – then gets underway on the 30th with a trip to Mancos.

As of press time for the 8/12 print edition of the Drum, Ignacio’s schedule shows the ’Cats as not having a home match until SJBL play – in the form of Ridgway – commandeers IHS Gymnasium on Friday, Sept. 16. But by then the crew will likely have already gotten a great glimpse of the postseason they’ll hope to again reach.

“We got invited to the West Grand tournament (in Kremmling) over Labor Day weekend,” Pontine said, “and we also got invited to the Denver Christian tournament. What I heard was that it’s just teams that made State last year who got invited! So we’re going to that one on the tenth of September.”

“I haven’t seen the schedule; I just got kind of a list (of teams) when we said we’d go,” she continued. “And there was Holyoke and Meeker, Denver Christian, Sedgwick County … I heard Hoehne also got invited, but I don’t think they’re going because their schedule was full by the time they got invited. So it’ll be a good tournament.”

Champion of a 3A/2A/1A Mile High League last fall, DCHS finished 20-8 overall after going 1-2 at State. Ruler of the 2A/1A Lower Platte, SC ended up 25-3 after a four-game win over fellow northeasterners Holyoke (23-8) in the State Championship, while Western Slope champ Meeker, a Final Four participant inside The Broadmoor World Arena, went 26-3.

At present, the updated field also includes 2A MHLers Littleton Front Range Christian (11-11 overall in 2021), 2A Southern Peaks member Sanford (14-10), and now-2A/1A Union Pacific inclusion Strasburg (14-10, 3-7 3A Patriot last season).

“The rest is just kind of ‘our’ schedule,” said Pontine. “I mean, we’ll play Cortez, Pagosa, we added Sargent again; but then the rest (of our matches) are just league. And I’m excited; it’ll be awesome.”

Like it? Share it!