Alexis Lovato (center in grey) at a recent practice. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post
Alexis Lovato Returns To The Court To Help Lady Sundevils Defeat Farmington
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
Española Valley High School fans had reason to cheer and it wasn’t just for the Lady Sundevils 59-48 victory over Farmington High School Jan. 2 at Española.
Junior post Alexis Lovato, last season’s leading scorer and rebounder, took the floor for the first time this season against the Lady Scorpions.
”I can’t put into words the excitement I felt being able to add number 24 (Lovato’s uniform number) to the scorebook,” Española Coach Cindy Roybal said.
Lovato scored nine points and hauled in 10 rebounds while playing the equivalent of two quarters (16 minutes) for the Sundevils.
“Her teammates gave her a standing ovation when she entered the game,” Coach Roybal said. Lovato had injured herself last year June 27 during a summertime scrimmage at Rio Rancho High School. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament and her lateral meniscus ligament of her right knee. Requiring surgery, the injury threatened to sideline her for this entire season and possibly end her basketball career. It was tough on Lovato, especially right after the surgery.
“The first two months were the worst,” Lovato said. “I was always in pain.”
Unable to lift her legs after the surgery, even the most basic tasks required hard work.
“I had to teach myself how to walk,” Lovato said. “I worked hard because I wanted to get back to the team.”
While Lovato was going through her recovery, her teammates offered her support.
“Katie (senior guard Kaitlyn Romero) would always get on me to do my exercises and ice me knee,” Lovato said. “My teammates would visit me and encourage me to stay positive.”
Lovato’s accelerated therapy with Española Hospital Rehabilitation Manager Andrew Sanchez three times a week focused on the stress that would be put on her knee when playing basketball.
“Things like post moves, pivoting and stuff like that,” Coach Roybal said.
Lovato was cleared to play by her doctor and began practicing with the team in December.
“No restrictions, she totally cleared,” Coach Roybal said. “She wouldn’t be out here if that wasn’t the case.”
Lovato was ready to go when she took the court against Farmington.
“I was super-excited,” she said. “It felt normal. I didn’t have any pain.”
During Lovato’s absence, the team pulled together under the leadership of Romero and junior guard Leah DeAguero
“The leadership role that Leah and Katie took making sure the team didn’t falter, you really can’t put that into words,” Coach Roybal said.
Romero, primarily a guard for most of her career, had to adjust to playing post in Lovato’s absence.
“It’s been a learning process,” Romero said. “I did whatever was needed to help the team. We never knew if we would get (Lovato) back. She’s a big part of our team and we’re looking forward to having her back.”
DeAguero runs the point for theSundevils, directing the offense. Española has a number of new faces and younger players on the team.
“We have a lot of younger teammates,” DeAguero said. “It was important to support them and give them confidence.”
Both players felt that they had to set an example.
“We would push ourselves so they would push themselves,” Romero said.
Lovato’s return lifted the whole team’s spirits.
“It was definitely a happy moment for us,” DeAguero said. “It’s going to improve all of us.”
Despite the absence of Lovato, the Sundevils are 10-2 on the season. The return of Lovato just makes them that much better.
“If you told me that we were going to be 10-2 without Lexi (Lovato), I’d have taken it and run,” Coach Roybal said.