IHS alumna eager to lead Volleycats

Seen pumping up one of her players at the preseason Pirate 4 Corners Scrimmages in Pagosa Springs, Colo. on Saturday, Aug. 12, Ignacio High School graduate Jennifer Seibel (née Ruybal, Class of 2004) is excited to be coaching the Volleycat varsity – her first such assignment in 2023.
Ignacio now-junior Ollyvia Howe puts up a block during action at the preseason Pirate 4 Corners Scrimmages on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Pagosa Springs, Colo. Howe will again be counted upon in 2023 to provide the Volleycats with a strong presence at the net.
Joel Priest | Special to Drum
Joel Priest | Special to Drum

Seibel takes varsity reins from Pontine 

With the 2023 high-school volleyball season getting underway earlier this week, Jennifer Seibel was plenty energized over the fact that her first season directing a varsity program would begin with three consecutive home matches in her hometown. 

“I was a three-sport athlete – volleyball, basketball and track – for the Bobcats,” said the former Jennifer Ruybal, a 2004 Ignacio High graduate replacing predecessor Shasta Pontine, whose Volleycats went a combined 33-19 overall – with a 14-2 record against the San Juan Basin League’s Class 2A teams, and an 18-4 mark in all official 2A/1A SJBL play – during her two seasons at the helm. “And I’m a Bobcat, what else can I say? I bleed red and … yeah, I’m happy to be here!” 

“About 95 percent of the girls, they went through my (middle-school) program! They know me as a coach and I feel like we have a pretty good relationship; they know my expectations,” she said, alluding to her successful 16-year stretch at IMS. “I had parents on my back – in a good way – about me stepping up (to IHS), and the seniors … really wanted me to come up.” 

“I was like, ‘You know what? They’ve gone through adversity within their careers, and this is such a good group – how can I say no?’ It was a when-you-know, you-know moment.” 

“To have that kind of mentorship role for girls, I think that was another huge push for me,” she continued. “I felt I could really make a difference in them through sports – what better way to learn life lessons? I think that’s why I stayed at that (middle-school) level so long; I felt like I could really get through and help them. And help myself too; it’s a two-way street.” 

With sister-in-law – via being married to IHS Girls’ Basketball head coach Trae – Cloe (IHS Class of 2014) on board as her varsity assistant coach, Seibel will also be aided by new JV skipper Jocelyn Kinsey (née Swayze, Class of 1988) and C-team leader Marisa Carmenoros (Class of 2021). 

“Day by day, I’m focused on our improvement. We’ve really got to work ourselves to grow every single day,” said Seibel. “I anticipate it’s going to be a fight every single match, to get better and grow and stay together as a team. I have no doubt that we will do well, but I just want to focus on being in the moment and what we have in front of us.” 

Senior middle Solymar Cosio returns to anchor the Volleycats’ net presence along with junior middle Ollyvia Howe, while senior Kacey Brown appears to be Seibel’s initial go-to at setter, with freshman Kelly Sirios – her daughter – an alternate option. Already established as libero/defensive specialist types, seniors Maci Barnes and Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga will likely see their roles expanded offensively. Junior Marissa Olguin also returns, and freshman Lily Quintana also saw much court time at the preseason Pirate 4 Corners Scrimmages, hosted August 12 by 3A Pagosa Springs. 

“We’ve got a handful of seniors who set the tone for our younger girls. They bring that competitive spirit to our team, and it just amps everybody up,” Seibel said. “So I’d say leadership is our strong point – the biggest thing I preach is that the team comes first. ‘Team’ above anyone.” 

“They’re such great girls, a special group, and I’m excited to help them out.” 

Results from Ignacio’s season-opener Tuesday, August 22, versus 3A Montezuma-Cortez, and 8/24 follow-up versus non-league 2A Del Norte were unavailable at press time. The ’Cats (14-11 overall, 8-3 SJBL, 6-2 2A SJBL in ’22) were then to begin league play on the 29th against Mancos (18-7, 8-3, 7-1) and NCAA Div. I Montana State University commit Teya Yeomans. 

The SJBL still looks the same in 2023, with IHS, MHS, Telluride, Dolores and Ridgway comprising its Class 2A side. Dove Creek, Nucla, Norwood will return on the 1A side, as will Ouray (albeit in a JV-only capacity). 

“‘What’s our goal?’ You know? And ‘How do we get there together?’ That’s kind of my thing this year, to keep these girls disciplined and … always moving forward despite the hardships and battles. Because they’re inevitable, you know?” said Seibel. “So just stay in the moment … have fun … and compete at a high level!” 

After hosting Mancos, the ’Cats will then start September up in Kremmling at the Sept. 1-2 West Grand Invitational. 

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