Home Sports Local Sports The No. 7 sports moment of 2019

The No. 7 sports moment of 2019

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The Hagerman volleyball team after they won the district tournament championship on Nov. 8. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

For Hagerman volleyball coach Monica Morales, it is always about the team. Team first, last and always. Morales breaks down the goals into small, attainable, bite-size pieces for her players. The goal is to keep her team focused on today’s work. Today’s practice and getting better and today’s game.

Hagerman is routinely a participant in the 2A volleyball tournament at state. Hagerman has yet to win it in Morales’ eight seasons but keeps moving closer. Under her watchful tutelage she has developed three all-state players.

No matter if the Lady Bobcats are young or experienced, setting small goals allows her team to grow together. Morales believes her team is only as strong as its weakest link. By setting small goals, Morales makes sure that her team leaves the court feeling good about themselves. Even if they have just lost, the goal could be to just play to the best of their ability — and if she can get her team to do that, no matter what the scoreboard says, the players will be winners.

Dexter made the state playoffs despite having a losing record. They were absent in 2018 after the resignation of coach Andy Luikens, who had led the Lady Demons to four straight state appearances. Dexter played well enough with co-coaches Melissa Duran and Larry VandenBout. This appearance at state has restored hope for the future of Dexter volleyball.

Because of these two local teams’ accomplishments, RDR Sports would like to honor these young ladies for their efforts. This is the No. 7 sports moment of the year.

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Dexter volleyball back in state playoffs this year

From the Nov. 14 edition of the Roswell Daily Record

Dexter’s Danique Blankvoort (13) hits the ball during a District 4-3A tournament game against Tucumcari Nov. 7 in Dexter. (Jeannie Harris Photo)

For a while, Dexter volleyball going to the state tournament seemed like their birthright. They had been to five straight state tournaments, but they fell on hard times last year when they had to replace the ultra-successful coach Andy Luikens. He resigned late citing that he wanted to spend more time with family. He can often be seen officiating volleyball games in the area.

Last season, Lisa Granados was hired to replace Luikens late in the summer. It was a disastrous season. The team was young and took their lumps. This season, athletic director Dave Campbell went with co-coaches Melissa Duran and veteran golf coach Larry VandenBout.

It seems like Dexter has hit on a winning combination with the co-coaches because it has the Lady Demons back in the playoffs as the No.12 seed. According to Duran, the team has come a long way in their play and improved to the point where they’re back in the dance. It would serve Sandia Prep well not to just go by Dexter’s overall record. Dexter is a dangerous No.12 seed.

“Coach VandenBout and I came in as new first-year coaches for volleyball this season,” Duran said. “We did not know what to expect. However, the work that the entire team — players, coaches, parents and community — have put in has allowed us the opportunity to make state this year, and we are proud of that.”

Duran feels like they scrapped the old ways of doing things and thought outside the box as far as the team was concerned. They discarded last season and decided to start anew.

They did that by encouraging players and worked on their skills. This also included moving players to positions they have never played before. If the team made mistakes or lost games, the coaches were positive and had the players let it go and didn’t dwell on their past but concerned themselves on what was before them.

“We are excited to be back in the state tournament this year,” Duran said. “We do not look backward at past seasons, only forward toward what we can learn to make our team better and improve our players’ skills.”

One of the key players and a leader for Dexter is Monique Fuentes. She is a setter and an all-around player. According to Duran, Fuentes leads the team in heart and attitude and they are hoping to see great things from her in this tournament.

Another big gun for the Lady Demons is Danique Blankvoort. She is the team’s middle hitter and leads them in kills and plays with an intense attitude. Chelsea Torres is another all-around player that puts forth the effort needed during tough games.

Kayla Aguirre is their libero who dominates the back row and has improved Dexter’s chances to win throughout the season. Alondra Alvarez and Emily Delgado are the Demons’ height at the net and support the team as hitters. The rest of the team is a consistent force of support in any position they are needed to play.

“For the tournament,” Duran said, “we expect our girls to take 100% effort and their ‘A’ game. We want to see a game where all of our key players and leaders reach their full potential — something we have not done collectively yet — but they do have the potential to do so. This is what we have to do in order to compete well this week and make that deep run in the tournament.”

Hagerman establishes excellence tradition in volleyball

From the Nov. 14 edition of the Roswell Daily Record

Hagerman has established excellence in volleyball and that would have everything to do with the seventh-year coach, Monica Morales. Morales has done everything there is to do at Hagerman, from being assistant coach to now head coach.

Morales has done everything at Hagerman except winning the Blue Trophy. She has guided her team to two undefeated seasons in the district, 7-0 in 2013, and 6-0 in 2015. Her team has played in the semifinal game at state.

Morales has compiled a 118-59 regular-season record and her teams always play their best volleyball in the district with a 43-10 record. Morales is a teacher and sees the big picture and she tries to make the Lady Bobcats play their best volleyball in the district. Morales has never had a losing season in her tenure there.

“We don’t do anything out of the norm,” Morales said. “We work hard every day and try to keep things as normal as possible. We emphasize team, believing we can and stay focused on reaching the goals we set at the beginning of the season.”

Morales believes that every member of the team has to buy into the team-first concept and be committed. She does that by getting them to work on small goals. It starts in preseason camp and will extend to the games during the season. She feels these small goals, among other things, have been the contributing factors in making it to the playoffs.

“I think it has been committing to the team,” Morales said. “Working on small goals throughout the match, not trading points, being the first to 10, first to 15, 20 and most importantly for us — finishing — and peaking at the right time. We have learned to commit to practicing hard every day,” she said, “having a better mental approach coming into district and state and buying into the team concept.”

Every year Morales starts with a blank sheet and gives each team member a chance to prove themselves. She knows that she might have to move some players and be patient with others. This year’s team is well-rounded and has some new players but some experienced players have returned.

“We’re a well rounded and more experienced team,” Morales said in assessing her team.

Hagerman played so well this season, that they drew a bye, earning a No. 3 seed. One of the differences in the tournament this year is the double-elimination instead of pool play. Morales seems to be pleased with the seeding that they earned.

“No, we play one point at a time, and one match at a time,” Morales said. “I like the new bracket set up, it gives teams more time to rest in between matches and I’m pleased with our placement in the bracket.”

Morales was chosen as District 2A Coach of the Year for this year.