Home Sports Local Sports The No. 9 sports moment of 2019

The No. 9 sports moment of 2019

The Roswell Lady Coyotes volleyball team with the District 4-5A trophy after they defeated Hobbs on Nov. 9. (J.T. Keith Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Just how special a coach is Roswell volleyball coach Heather Baca? Just know that Baca was tapped to replace coach Brian Masse, who led Roswell to a four-set victory over Espanola Valley in 2006. That was the school’s last state title.

For Baca, this proved to be the most challenging and most rewarding of her eight seasons on the bench. Baca had some things to overcome, one was the reclassification. It really didn’t show up the first year, when the Lady Coyotes’ played with the players they had.

It showed itself in the second year when the attrition of graduation hit, and injuries sidelined key players. Most teams have plenty of players to pick from and reload. Most schools have players that specialize in just one sport, where Roswell has players playing multiple sports and the chance to concentrate on one sport does not happen often.

Baca had a player miss the whole season her junior year, who was working herself into game-playing experience and condition. A few of the players had to learn Baca’s schemes and concepts. In essence Baca was starting over from scratch.

Another factor was that Baca was the reigning 5A Coach of the Year. Baca had gone 5-1 in the district the previous season and defeated Hobbs in a playoff. The 2018 team started out 3-6 before catching fire. Roswell defeated Hobbs two games in a row — in the regular-season finale and in the district tournament — to win the title and get into the playoffs.

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This season the Lady Coyotes were hot in the district until being upset by Hobbs. The loss gave the regular-season title to Hobbs. That loss forced Roswell to win the district tournament championship in order to make the playoffs.

The Lady Coyotes would have to go on the road to attain the title. Of all places they would have to take the title, it would be at Hobbs in Ralph Tasker Gym. After the National Anthem, the Hobbs Eagles’ played like they were still in their warmups as the Lady Coyotes’ whipped them in straight sets: 25-21, 25-22 and 25-18.

That victory was most satisfying because Baca had led her team to the playoffs four consecutive years, two in 5A. Baca loses a special group of seniors, including her daughter, Jalen.

The cupboard is not bare for Baca this upcoming season. Once she finds a libero, Baca will have height to work with — Janae Faust, Victoria Sandoval, and Jessica Espinoza, just to name a few players. Baca is starting to draw comparisons to coach Flo Valdez. She appears to be knocking on the door to her first state title.

For her career as a coach, but especially her last two years in 5A, RDR Sports awards coach Baca and the Lady Coyotes’ the No. 9 sports moment of the year.

Roswell Lady Coyotes punch their ticket to state

From the Nov. 10 Edition of the Roswell Daily Record

Let’s just say Roswell Lady Coyotes’ coach Heather Baca had her game face on, and it didn’t take long for her to display it. In the second game of the match, one official called it a point for Roswell, and another called it out.

Baca stormed to the court and asked the official whose call that was — and asked to challenge the call. Baca was so intense one might have thought it was payday. Payday for the Lady Coyotes to cash in and get to state. It was for the Lady Coyotes, as Baca’s intensity spread throughout the rest of the team.

The Lady Coyotes shut out the Hobbs Eagles in straight sets: 25-21, 25-22 and 25-18 on Saturday at Hobbs in the district tournament title game, to prove that their loss on Monday night was a fluke.

“We came ready to play today,” Baca said. “The things that we had worked on to prepare for Hobbs last time, I thought we executed really well today. We passed the ball really well.”

Roswell is now the district tournament champion of 5A and will have a dance card to go to the big dance this week. it will be the fourth consecutive time Baca has guided her team into the hunt for the Blue Trophy.

Nothing is more impressive than what the reigning 5A Coach of the Year has done. She graduated a lot of seniors last year and took a group of players that had not played a lot, outside of a few key players, and has transformed them into a championship team through hard work.

The key to the game was that every time Hobbs would make a run and score three points, Roswell would gather themselves and put a stop to it, and go on a run of their own. “Our team did a good job of executing the game plan,” Baca said. “We didn’t do as well at that on Monday, but today I thought our team carried it out beautifully.”

Baca has cemented a name for herself as a coach not only in 5A but throughout New Mexico. She did all of this while being reclassified to a higher class of play. There is still a chance that Baca could win her second Coach of the Year award.

“Our seniors knew it was a do or die situation,” Baca said. “Our seniors really wanted to make the trip to Albuquerque and play at the state tournament. It’s a credit to them because they came prepared and did a really good job of executing today.”

The Lady Coyotes will  wait to see where they will be seeded, but no matter where it is, it’s inside the tournament and that’s all that matters.

Read RDR Sports on Tuesday for bracket information and later in the week for profiles on Roswell and Goddard for the upcoming state games.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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