Sandia’s libero learns to lead, practices team unity


Nakooma Pelt has found her place on the Sandia volleyball team.

Pelt, a junior, worked her way to the varsity as a sophomore but it wasn’t until this season that she finally feels comfortable.

portrait in gym

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Sandia High School junior Nakooma Pelt is the libero for the District 2-6A volleyball team. Pelt, Navajo, worked her way up to the lineup and has competed in a number of prestigious USA Volleyball tournaments nationally. Sandia is 5-0 in their district and picked up the most recent win Tuesday night when they swept Manzano 3-0.

“Last season I was very timid and I didn’t know how the team was,” she said. “I wasn’t use to the whole high school dynamic. This year I feel a little bit more in control. I’m more familiar with it. I just really had to find my confidence.”

Pelt, 16, who is Navajo and has roots in Shiprock, started on Sandia’s junior varsity team as a freshman. She has since earned a starting position on the varsity team as the libero.

Sandia head coach Kristopher Borland, who coached Pelt throughout all three seasons, said he’s watched her grow into her role.

“There’s maturity,” he said. “You deal with kids at this age sometimes and it comes at a slow place. This year she just starting to really be comfortable in her own skin.

“For the past two years she’s really fought hard to earn a libero jersey,” he said. “It’s not always hard to obtain, but to maintain it.”

Her efforts come from a strong work ethic. Over the years Pelt has competed in national tournaments, sponsored by USA Volleyball, and has worked with a trainer.

When she’s not at practice with her team, she’s with her trainer.

“Every week I push myself to do good in practice, and in the game so I can keep the (libero) jersey,” Pelt said. “I really try to talk to the hitters in the back row.”

Standing only 5 feet 2 inches, Pelt has never let her size get in the way.

Borland said size is not a factor and all he sees is work ethic.

“I never take that into consideration with all of my kids,” he said. “If you can play you play. That’s why she’s a part of this team.

“She can contribute in multiple ways,” he said. “She has an innate sense of reading hitters. Her set, I think, is second to none in the state. She just has such good instincts.”

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Categories: Volleyball

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at or via cell at (505) 686-0769.