Española Volleyball Preview

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9185  Junior Chloe Fell punches the ball across the net during practice. Photos by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española Volleyball Preview

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School volleyball team returns a strong group of hitters for the 2017 season. Hitters are the players who garner most of the cheers from the crowd with their hard swings and powerful kills from the front row. The defending District 2-5A champions now need to find the players to get the ball to those hitters.

“Our big hitters are back,” Española Coach Damon Salazar said. “Good hitting doesn’t do you a bit of good if you can’t get them the ball.”

The hitters include senior middle blocker Cheyanne Martinez, sophomore outside hitter Dulce Maldonado, junior outside hitter Chloe Fell, junior Andrea Perea and senior Autumn Martinez. Cheyanne Martinez and Maldonado stand 5 feet, 10 inches and are the tallest Lady Sundevils.

Sophomore Dulce Maldonado will be an outside hitter for the Lady Sundevils. Photos by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“All you do is block,” Martinez said. “Then transition off the block.”

As a senior, Martinez will have to assume the role as team leader.

“It’s a lot of weight,” she said. ‘Learning to handle how to be a leader and how to encourage the other players.”

​Senior Cheyanne Martinez will be Española’s middle blocker on the volleyball team. Photos by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The unity on this year’s team helps her in that leadership role.

“”We’re really comfortable with each other,” Martinez said. “We connect way more than all the teams I’ve played on.”

Two of the players that are going to need encouraging are freshman Anita DeAguero and senior Alyssa Aguilar. Both are slated to be setters whose responsibility is to get the ball to the hitters. They replace Raylynn Quintana, who graduated. DeAguero is inexperienced and Aguilar didn’t play volleyball last year.

​Alyssa Aguilar is returning to the volleyball team for her senior year. She will be one of two setters and also hit from the right side. Photos by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“I should communicate with them and let them know where I’m at,” Martinez said. “Encourage them to do better.”

Aguilar, a pitcher on Española’s softball team, did not play volleyball last year.

“Cheyanne (Martinez) told me to come out and that it would be really fun,” Aguilar said. “I was a little behind. I’ve been working really hard to get in as many games and scrimmages as I can. Everyone’s really supported me to help me catch up.”

In addition to setting, Aguilar will also hit from the right side.

“My hitting’s improved a lot,” she said. “I just like playing.”

Fell has suffered hand injuries in the past and sometimes will hit left-handed.

“I just keep coming,” she said. “We’ve bonded better and understand each other.”

Española competes in District 2-5A.

“To win it, we’re going to have to want it more than any other team,” Fell said.

Coach Salazar believes that a much-improved Capital High School is the team to beat. He has not seen Albuquerque Academy, but knows their players play club volleyball.

“Academy could be dangerous if not good,” Salazar said. “That’s what I anticipate.”

To win another district title, Española needs to work on two things that last year were among its strengths. With the graduation of libero Leah DeAguero and several good defensive specialists, Española has to rebuild its back row.

Ball control is one of our weaknesses that used to be one of our strengths,” Coach Salazar said. “Defensively, we’re poor right now. We’re nowhere near what we need to be.”

Junior Meranda Romero, also a pitcher on Española’s softball team, takes over as libero. Coach Salazar is  still looking for players to fill the role as defensive specialists.

“(Meranda) needs to work on her leadership,” Coach Salazar said. “She needs to use her voice in the back row.”

The Sundevils are strong in another area besides hitting.

“We’re a really good serving team, as long as we stay consistent,” Coach Salazar said.

The Sundevils should be a work in progress early in the season that comes together as the season progresses.

“They’re a good, hard-working group of kids,” Coach Salazar said. “We had a couple of practices that graded out as B+A-, which is good this early in the season. I’m confident that with the level of talent they have they’re going to be playing at a high level. We should develop into a pretty solid team like we did last year.”

Española will find out where they’re at and where they need to improve Saturday 8/19) when the Lady Sundevils host a scrimmage that includes some top-quality teams.

“We have a big scrimmage this weekend,” Coach Salazar said. “I’m excited to see how we do. Robertson (High School) has an outstanding team. We played them this summer and they gave us the hammer. I want us to do a little better this time.”