The high school volleyball season is more than a month away but the cheers inside Moriarty High’s auxiliary gym last week were as loud as what is typically heard at a state championship.
East Mountain, Mountainair and nine other high schools joined host Moriarty for its annual two-day summer volleyball tournament, July 19-20, and the hearty spirit swirling from the coaches, players and fans was striking.
“I think it shows people are excited about a new season starting,” Moriarty’s head varsity coach Kim Bell said. “There’s always that anticipation of a new season.”
The first day included several pool-play rounds. On the second day all the teams competed in a bracketed, double-elimination format.
“It provides an opportunity for both of our teams—both JV and varsity—to get into a tournament and play without having to travel,” Bell said, adding, “And I think the local teams like something that’s close by, they don’t want to travel either.”
Like most of the larger schools at the tournament, Moriarty had two teams participating: one consisting of varsity players, the other JV and C-team players.
Bell acknowledged that the outcome of the matches was secondary to evaluating the players.
“Win or lose, it shows us what we need to work on, what the kids are ready for, what they’re not ready for, that’s what I’m looking at,” Bell said, adding, “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing.”
East Mountain head coach Kasi Giovenco said, “It’s a good feel out to get the girls’ hands back on the ball.”
Giovenco noted that all her returning players participated, as well as some up-and-coming JV and C-team players.
“It’s like a buffer to see what this season has in store for us,” she said.
During the second day’s matchups, The Lady Timberwolves were eliminated after losing to Laguna-Acoma and the reigning Class 1A state champion Logan, but Giovenco focused on the positive things she saw from her players.
“This is the best we’ve done in the four years we’ve been here,” Giovenco said. “We got more good play, it was more beneficial, everyone enjoyed it—the girls are ready for the season, they’re hungry.”
Mountainair head coach Rick Gage had an equally upbeat outlook on his team’s participation in the tournament.
“It’s always a good experience to come here,” Gage said. “Anything we can get done in the summer puts us ahead of the game.”
The Lady Mustangs posted a 16-6 overall record last year, won their district and earned a trip to the state tournament, but after losing six starters to graduation, Gage acknowledged that his young team has a lot of work to do.
“It’ kind of a rebuilding year,” Gage said. “There’s a lot of things we’ve got to improve on.”
Gage said he wasn’t overly satisfied with how the Lady Mustangs performed in the tournament, but knows that most of their losses were to larger schools they won’t face in the regular season.
“We’ve got to be able to serve and receive serves, and we didn’t do those two things right,” Gage said. “But I take away nothing negative from this, it’s all positive, it gives us a goal. These games don’t count, it’s like a practice scrimmage. I’ve got good kids, they’re young and we’ve got a long way to go, but this is a great starting place.”