V-ball thriving at mid-school

Simply put, Ignacio Middle School’s ‘A’ squad won the San Juan Basin League volleyball title this fall – October 12th, to be precise – because from Day One there was no ‘quit’ in them.

Sure, some afternoons of practice may have been harder than others, as were likely some – though apparently not many, judging by the team’s 17-3 overall record – matches, but Cindy Valdez’s young Lady Bobcats refused to utter the aforementioned four-letter word.

Neither did Jennifer Seibel’s team.  And neither did Kathy Herrera’s or Rylie Jefferson’s.

“We had 51 girls come out this year,” Valdez said, overly proud that IMS fielded an ‘A’ team, a ‘B,’ and three ‘C’ teams.  “Started with 51 – in Grades Six, Seven and Eight – and we ended with 51!”

“This summer I put on the very first – that I’ve been coaching – two-day volleyball camp,” she continued.  “Couple hours each day, and the girls came and we just introduced volleyball … I think that’s how we got so many girls interested in it!”

“We have a high-school coach [Thad Cano] who is very open and willing to help; he was always very … ‘Hey, what do you need?  Let me help you!’  So I’m just seeing that from senior level all the way down to when the girls can start playing in sixth grade … there’s cohesion for the kids.  And when I put on my camp this summer, high-school players helped with it – creates a form of bonding with the girls, and gives our younger girls super role models.”

Having lost only to Durango’s Miller Middle and Bayfield Middle (twice) in 2013, Ignacio Middle’s ‘A’ – also in a circuit with BMS, MMS, Durango’s Escalante and St. Columba, Pagosa Springs and even Cortez – ultimately dueled Dolores up in Norwood for all the SJBL marbles.

“We knew they were going to be tough.  During the league [schedule] we had to go four games – in that league we go 3-out-of-5 – and that was the only team [against which] we had to go four,” recalled Valdez.  “So we stepped on the court, and the very first game … we just handed them – we had 25 points right off the bat, and we thought it was going to be a piece of cake!”

“So the second game, the girls kind of got relaxed and we … struggled!  Third game, we lost and we didn’t know what just hit us; Dolores stepped up and thought ‘We’re not going down easy – going to give you a fight!’  And they did.  The fourth game … we were making silly mistakes and I told them, ‘You’re beating yourselves is what you’re doing.’”

Admitting to – and amazed by the results of – having not once used the same starting lineup from one match to the next, Valdez wisely decided to make another change and bench someone.  Herself.

“I know, and from my husband being a coach as well, your team will feed off of you.  I wasn’t giving them good vibes because I was so intense,” she said, “so I just sat down on the bench and watched – which was one of the hardest things I could do!  They looked at me, must have thought ‘Uh-oh … Coach isn’t saying anything – she’s sitting down!’”

“I called a timeout, pulled them together and said, ‘You have everything you need to win!  Got to learn how to use it, and you’ve got to want to use it.  And … play the game like you love it!’  I sat back down, and they came together and won!”

“We all just jumped up and screamed!  We were so excited, and seeing that the girls … fought for it was better – I would have rather them fought for that win, than had it been like the very first game where we just scooped it up with no problem,” she stated.  “I’d rather them fight for what they’ve earned.”

Sounds indeed like something Chris Valdez, Ignacio High’s boys’ basketball boss, would say.

“I could go and tell specific things about all of them, but I can’t just pick a couple [standouts] because they all improved,” said Cindy Valdez.  “And I switched them up all the time … wanted to show them it doesn’t matter who you play with – you play at your level, and you have to play with everybody.”

Three-year ‘A’ veteran Shoshone Thompson and Avionne Gomez, both currently in eighth grade, and seventh-grader Shyanne Vigil were three of Valdez’s all-around cornerstones, particularly on offense.  Eighth-graders Chloe Velasquez and Sidney Cox contributed essential back-row work as well.

Payton Lyon was the only other seventh-grader on the ‘A’ roster, with Victoria Adams, Allisianna Baker, Chasity Bean, Caitlin Garcia and Shelsey Lagerstrom all entering the halls of IHS next year.

“What I try to do a lot is play them in the positions that I thought they would be playing in high school,” Valdez said.  “I kind of talked to Coach Cano about those instances and he goes, ‘You know … give ’em that experience now.’  I said o.k.; that’s what I tried to do!”


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