If Nadia Watson was looking to “thank” her alma mater, consider it done.
“I really think of it [as] ‘paying it forward,’” she said. After winning her varsity head-coaching debut Thursday, Aug. 28, in the building where the former basketball standout once starred.
“I mean, Kirtland Central gave me such a great opportunity to play at another level, and for schooling … and has really prepared me for the next level. And if I can do half of what Kirtland Central’s done for me as a student-athlete for these girls, I think I’ve accomplished my mission.”
Victimized in the Lady Broncos’ 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 victory, however, Ignacio left Bronco Arena knowing they had stayed closer – other than in Game 3 – to the New Mexico squad than the scores showed.
“Being a young team, they’re just getting through the mental stability. They’ve all bought into our fast offense we’re running, and the tough serving,” veteran boss Thad Cano stated. “The tough serving wasn’t there tonight; it kind of came, went, sparked once in a while. We’ve just got to be consistent … and the passing, serving, everything else will come together.”
“They’re looking forward to next year, them coming up to us!” he added, of the growing KCHS-IHS, 4A-versus-2A rivalry that had seen its previous two editions each go five games. “They’re loving it!”
Game 1 was about as mutually shaky as could be expected; of the 43 combined points, 30 – including the very first ten, resulting in a 6-4 Kirtland lead, and the very last – were won or lost via errors.
“Our serving and our passing really got to us,” said senior Amya Bison, who served wide on game point not long after consecutive tide-turning aces by KC’s Alex Cambridge. “I think if we would have had our serves, I think we would have done good as far as not letting it get to us mentally.”
Freshman setter Shoshone Thompson’s first prep-level ace, pulling the Cats back to 19-16, had been the team’s brightest highlight, and after sending her next one long, she buried her next try perfectly into the deep corner for a 3-0 lead early in Game 2, after Cambridge opened with a misfire from the line.
Central recovered to tie at 4-4, but Bison then crushed a Thompson quick set to again put the Lady Broncos in chase mode as Ignacio (0-1, 0-0 San Juan Basin League) matched their maximum margin at 9-6 before KC re-tied at 9-all and subsequently built themselves a three-point pad at 13-10.
But starting with junior Ellie Seibel’s tip tight to the net and a Cambridge hitting error, IHS clawed back to take a 15-14 lead on a Bison block before Kirtland regained the advantage for good at 19-17 after two Krystal Sheka serves proved too tough to handle.
The Lady Broncos (1-0, 0-0 Dist. 1-4A) then went up two games to zero in the match when senior Kaleigh Case cracked an ace off Volleycat freshman Avionne Gomez.
“We’re a little rocky,” said Bison. “Kind of just broke down after that.”
Opening Game 3, Thompson atoned for a service error with a clever set-dump, but KC then went up 2-1, then got a Morgan Farley ace and were off and running, never to be caught as their lead eventually grew to 18-8, 19-9 and 20-10. A kill by junior Deiondra Smith and a tip by senior middle Koelle Bradley officially sealed the deal.
“These girls have really come into themselves,” said Watson. “Really stepped up to the plate – which was nice to see because I was a little worried, honestly!”
“I told ’em that we’re going to go through these growing pains,” Cano said, of his side. “They kept attempting and that’s what I like – they never quit trying to run quicks we’ve been practicing…if we don’t run ’em we’re not going to learn, not going to get better. They’re going to pay off in the long run!”
Up next, the Cats begin SJBL play at Ouray on Saturday, Sept. 6, and then host Mancos and Ridgway on the Sept. 11 and 13, respectively. Results from action at 3A Monte Vista on the 4 were unavailable at press time.