After a fall season that was postponed before their first scheduled match and several subsequent months of uncertainty—like whether there would be any season at all—the Lady Pintos volleyball team had plenty to say about starting official practices this week.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” sophomore Aneesa Chavez said. “It sucked not playing for a long time, it’s awesome coming back.”
“It’s really exciting, actually,” sophomore Evann Segura said. “Especially after being hurt, it’s extra-exciting.” Segura hurt her knee and missed the last half of the 2019 season.
“It’s honestly crazy, I’m ready to play,” Payton Edwards said.
The Lady Pintos started practices Feb. 22, going four days a week—they can’t practice on Wednesdays because the gym is being used for Covid-19 vaccinations—and head coach Kim Bell said the team is putting the pedal to the metal.
“We’re here, we’re going, and we’re excited that we can get this off the ground,” Bell said, adding, “It helps that I’ve got a lot of kids back.”
Bell said it’s a little odd to be starting in February and the season is going to look a lot different.
“It is, we’re gonna play in masks, and we’re not gonna have any fans so I think that’s just gonna seem really strange,” Bell said. “But we’re looking forward to it.”
Bell said she still has to figure out lineups and what is going to work best with some players in new positions, “So we’ll see what happens.”
The Lady Pintos will kick off the season March 2 when they host Mountainair.
Estancia’s Lady Bears volleyball team also returned to the gym Feb. 22 with full-blown practices for the first time since the 2019 season ended.
“It’s good, it’s good, this is a really good group of girls and I’m really excited that they’re getting a season,” Estancia head coach Glenda Noblitt said.
Noblitt said having full-team practices allows her to conduct game-like drills which is much more productive than the pod-driven workouts they have been doing for several months.
“That’s the hard part of a pod of four, it’s not game-like,” Noblitt said. “You can get a lot of reps in but they’re not quality reps so I don’t know how beneficial it is.”
Estancia’s gym was chock-full of girls for this week’s practices, including multiple returning starters.
“We usually run about 30 girls so I’m pretty excited that our normal numbers are here,” Noblitt said, adding that her starters are seasoned and “have great volleyball I.Q.”
“A lot of it is just doing drills and touches to get the cobwebs out—getting them back into the swing of things,” Noblitt said.
Estancia’s first match is March 2, and Noblitt said the shortened but jam-packed season will comprise 12 matches in four weeks, consisting of three matches a week. “It’s gonna be fast and furious.”
Mountainair’s athletic director, Consuelo Brazil, said in an email to The Independent that the school also began official volleyball practices Feb. 22, adding, “We are so excited to be back on the court!”
Mountainair’s new head volleyball coach, Sheldon Roberts, echoed Brazil’s words: “It’s good, the girls are excited, it’s fun to be back in the gym.”
Roberts, who coached Mountainair’s volleyball team for 10 years from 2001 to 2011, returned in the fall. While the season has been on hold, he’s been holding pod-workouts with the Lady Mustangs.
“It’s been an unusual situation, that’s for sure,” Roberts said.
He said his offensive approach is kind of a change from what the team had been doing the last couple of seasons and now the team is “just pushing as hard as we can without overdoing it.”
Three teams in Mountainair’s district have decided not to play volleyball this spring, but the Lady Mustangs will still play rival Hondo Valley and Magdalena. Mountainair will start the season Tuesday at Class 4A Moriarty.
“We’ll have to step-up against Moriarty, use it to work the bugs out and get ready for Magdalena on Thursday,” Roberts said, adding, “It’s gonna be a whirlwind, that’s for sure.”
East Mountain began its hybrid model Feb. 22 so the school can not hold full team practices until March 8. The school must complete the initial two-week surveillance period from Feb. 22 to March 7 before full practices can begin.
Despite still practicing in pods, East Mountain athletic director and head volleyball coach Kasi Giovenco said, “It’s going great. The girls are excited to be in the gym and getting their hands on the volleyball.”
Giovenco said East Mountain will be playing some new teams, including St. Michaels in Santa Fe, which is where the Lady Timberwolves will kick off their season on March 8.
“The girls know that the season is going to be quick and dirty due to the shortened schedule,” Giovenco said. “So they understand that these two weeks leading up to March 8th, they have to be putting in maximum time and effort into each practice to be able to hit the ground running.”