With strong returning players, Thoreau looks to state
In his first year coaching the Thoreau volleyball program, Kyron White inherited a squad that brought back only two players from the previous season.
At that time, White assumed his team would take their lumps but, to his surprise, his young team exceeded his expectations.
“I was thinking it was going to be more of a rebuilding year,” White said. “The year before we lost a lot of players so I figured we would struggle that first year.”
Instead the Lady Hawks finished the season with a 14-9 record, which included a 7-3 slate in league play.
Thoreau graduated only two players from that squad as they return nine lettermen, consisting of seniors
Kasey Sanders (OH) and Alenis Pino (OH) as well as juniors Adela Sena (setter), Jalena Begay (MH), Kaitlyn James (MH), Malika Sam (DS) and Tatum Lee (MH).
The sophomore class includes Kayla Garcia (OH) and Kora Jones (DS).
With what he has returning, the second-year coach said they have set higher goals this season.
“Last year we got district runner-ups even though we were in a rebuilding mode,” White said. “This year we want to try and win the district.”
Nonetheless, White considers Navajo Prep as the team to beat. Last year, the Farmington-based school swept Thoreau in straight sets.
“They won every single game last year,” White said of the Lady Eagles squad, who will be coached by first-year coach Rae Collins. “They serve tough and they’re real athletic.”
By finishing as the reserve champions in District 1-3A, Thoreau earned a bid to the state tournament. That invitation ended a 14-year state-bound drought.
“We came in as the No. 12 seed and we gave Santa Fe Indian a game,” White said of the No. 5 seed. “It wasn’t a bad match. We took a set away from them.
“Our girls have a ton of experience so we’re ready to go,” he said. “Hopefully we can get one of the higher seeds for state.”
White said the Hawks have ample weapons to turn to at the net with Sena manning the offense at the setter’s position. Last season, he said, Garcia, Begay and Pino were his most consistent hitters and he’s expecting them to put up some gaudy numbers.
“They’ve been working hard all summer so we’re excited about this season,” he said.
Despite returning plenty of firepower, White said his team still needs work with their passing game, specifically serve-receive.
“I think every team will struggle with serve-receive, from high school to college, but I think we’re doing a lot better with it,” he said. “Our serving is a lot stronger as well.”
The Hawks opens the season today with Class 4A Gallup and later this year they will participate in two tournaments – the Rehoboth and Moriarty invitationals.
In the Moriarty tournament last year, White said they placed fifth in the silver bracket as they went 2-1 in bracket play. They defeated Hot Springs and Bernalillo while losing to Lovington.
“Last year we saw some really good teams,” White said. “We saw some tall 5A and 4A teams so we’re looking forward to going back.”