Article & Photos by Jonathan Noah Padilla
As we continue looking forward to the coming season, I want to highlight a few NMAA Volleyball teams I think everyone should watch this fall. In no particular order, they are:
La Cueva Bears
Defending 5A Champion La Cueva High School continues to stay at the top of the volleyball food chain in New Mexico. Any 5A school that wants a shot at the blue trophy will more than likely have to go through the Bears. This program is always one to watch even when they have a down year. The Bears will be losing all around player Erin Jones. She will be difficult to replace but look for Ella Sanders and Karyna Werley to fill those gaps accordingly. Ella led the team with 308 kills last season, while Karyna led in assists. Another huge loss will be Jenna Sandoval who had 298 digs for the Bears. I am sure Coach Archibeque will have a solution to replacing all those digs. Look for sophomore Sophie Diouf to be a blocking machine (she led the team in total blocks as a freshman!). La Cueva should have a solid squad and will be there when the hunt for the blue trophy begins. Be sure to catch a Bears game this fall, you will not be disappointed.
Notable returners: Ella Sanders, Tea Kalajdzic, Karyna Werley, and Sophie Diouf
V. Sue Cleveland High School had an impressive season finishing as last year’s 5A runner up. Look for this team to be a contender this fall. The Storm will have a lot of talent and playoff experience coming back, as they are only losing two seniors from 2021. Hitters Madelyn Del Greco and Petra Fritz were quite impressive last season. I’ve seen these two make some big swings and I know they will be great to watch. Cleveland will also have their libero, Aubrey Ortiz, returning as a senior. Another big returning asset is senior Lylah Moreno. If anyone has the potential to stop La Cueva from repeating, it’s this team.
Notable returners: Lylah Moreno, Madelyn Del Greco, Petra Fritz, Aubrey Ortiz, and Marian Hatch
Hope Christian Huskies
If not for a fantastic Cinderella run by Artesia to win the NMAA 4A Championship last year, Hope Christian would have put the crown jewel on a superb season. Look for the Huskies to once again be top 4A team. They are losing quite a few seniors from last year’s runner up team but they should not be taken lightly. Ethnee Gibson and Logan Mcpherson will play huge hitting and blocking roles for the Huskies. Look for Elizabeth Cheshire to have a lot of assists to those two. Sophomore Trinity Carpenter will be there to help with blocking.
Notable returners: Ethnee Gibson, Logan Mcpherson, Elizabeth Cheshire, and Trinity Carpenter
The Centennial Hawks are always a treat to watch. They were the defending NMAA 5A champions from 2020 and did not disappoint in 2021. The Hawks will have five returning seniors to include reigning 2021-22 Gatorade Player of the Year, Tess Fuqua. If you have not seen her play, you need to be sure to do that. She put up a staggering 586 kills last season. Another key senior for Centennial this fall will be their libero Bella Castro. Castro is an All State caliber player who hustles every play. Coach Al Rosen knows how to get his teams to the playoffs. Centennial is a must watch when you get the opportunity.
Notable returners: Tess Fuqua, Bella Castro, Emy Gunn, and Maren Bekken
Cibola is consistently strong as a program. Last season they were the only team to give La Cueva a loss in what turned out to be a very exciting Metro Championship game. The Cougars will have two returning seniors in Molly Peek and Kirah Mckinney. Those seniors will be supplemented by a rock solid pack of juniors who are quite talented. Look for Janessa Leyba to improve on her team leading 248 kills from last season. Ella Parker and Jennifer Lopez are no slouches themselves and will help to round out a great stable of hitters for Cibola. Makayla Martinez will once again be a digging machine as well as a top server. The Cougars are losing their main setter Abby Carlson. She was instrumental and will be tough to replace, but Coach Christina Norton does a stellar job and has the ability to bring solid squads each season. Catch them in action as the Cougars will be dangerous opponent all season long. Come playoff time, they will be a looming threat to hoist that blue trophy.
Notable returners: Janessa Leyba, Jennifer Lopez, Makayla Martinez, and Ella Parker
Other Notable teams to watch: Rio Rancho Rams, Sandia Matadors, Robertson Cardinals, Sandia Prep Sundevils, Artesia Bulldogs, Goddard Rockets
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