NM prep volleyball

Wingate, Tohatchi see positives in rival game

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

TOHATCHI, N.M., August 30, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

Tohatchi's Hevyn Crawford, left, blocks Wingate's Gervana Begay's on a dink attempt on Tuesday in Tohatchi.

A lthough one team had to win and the other had to lose, the head coaches for both the Wingate Lady Bears and Tohatchi Lady Cougars are taking away the positives from their season openers.

Both teams opened their season on Tuesday, with the Lady Bears outlasting the Lady Cougars in four sets. The set scores were 25-17, 25-18, 17-25, 25-12.

Wingate Lady Bears

During their first week of practice, the Lady Bears were without a head coach and had to rely on the services of their athletic director Al Martinez, who arguably knows more about basketball than volleyball.

In their game against the Lady Cougars, it was evident that the Lady Bears are still a work in progress, even with Melody West returning as the program's head coach.

West, who retired from coaching last season, said she rejoined the team as the head coach because there was no one else willing to take up the responsibility.

"We just didn't have anybody to take over the coaching position. We waited a few weeks," she said adding that it was only right for her to head the program again as the season opener became closer. "I just wanted the girls to have a good season and I'm glad to be back."

Asked how she felt about winning her first game having came out of brief retirement, West said, "Not bad. We still got to get our rotations and transitions down. I have to work with our hitters and setters. That's going to take a little time."

West said the girls who make up this year's squad have all the talent to be competitive.

Wingate returns five players from last year's Elite 8 team, who lost in the second round of the New Mexico Class 3A state volleyball championships.

Those five players are Gervana Begay, Gerilyn Antonio, Shyler Lowley, Bethany Pine, and Marissa Sandoval.

"They know what to do," West said. "The girls have the skills and talent. It's just a matter of them coming together."

Based on what she saw against the Lady Cougars on Tuesday, West said she's going to emphasize the importance of attacking – it's a strong asset on this year's team with Antonio, Begay, Lowley and Pine emerging as reliable hitters when the team needed aces or kills to ward off the feisty Cougars.

"Our serving helped us," West said of her team's victory. "We can't do a lot of bump, bump, and bump. We're a better team when we attack the ball."

Given that she only had a week to prepare for Tohatchi, West knew the game was not going to be an easy one.

"They're farther ahead of us. I give him a lot of credit," West said of Tohatchi head coach Edwin Brown. "His team improved. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, especially where we are as a team."

And as far as District 1-3A goes, West said, the Lady Bears are going to need to put in hard work to defend their district title.

"It's going to be competitive," she said of the district, which includes Thoreau, Shiprock and Bloomfield, which moved down from 4A. "We're excited for the season."

Tohatchi Lady Cougars

For the Tohatchi Lady Cougars, taking a set from their arch rival is an effort to be proud of, according to head coach Edwin Brown.

"The girls played an awesome game," Brown said. "I'm so proud of my girls for giving Wingate a game. They put on a show for our community. It was great."

Although his team lost, Brown said he saw some positives in the Lady Cougar's passing and attacking games.

"The passing was there and the hits were there," Brown said, adding that his team's communication was important to its offensive and defensive plays. "The digs that went to the setter were on time."

This year, Brown said, he is going to rely on the leadership of seniors Taneka Ben and Shania Logg.

"Those two are who I am relying on for leadership," said Brown. "Taneka and Shania have played at the varsity level the last few years."

In district play, Brown thinks his Cougars have a good shot of making noise.

"I think Navajo Prep is the favorite but other teams including us, are going to step up to give them a match," Brown said. "I think we will be really good in this new lineup with eight teams."

Besides Tohatchi and Navajo Prep, District 1-2A includes Crownpoint, Navajo Pine, Newcomb, Ramah, Rehoboth, and Zuni.

Tohatchi's next game scheduled for Sept. 6, against 3A rival Thoreau.

"I think we'll do really well against Thoreau," Brown added.

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