Home Sports Local Sports Jalen Baca signs with NMMI

Jalen Baca signs with NMMI

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Jalen Baca signed to play for NMMI in the fall. From left are Heather Baca, mother; Jalen Baca; "Squish" Baca and Craig Baca, dad. (David Rocha Photo)

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It was supposed to be a signing, but the signing turned into a party. That party turned into a Jalen Baca party. Roswell’s Jalen Baca was loved on and feted by family and friends. Administrators like RHS’ basketball coach, Fernando Sanchez; assistant principals, Andrea Batista and Pilar Carrasco; and former principal Rueben Bolanos, among others. There were teammates from volleyball and basketball who have grown up with her and played with her. Baca recently signed to continue her volleyball and academic career at New Mexico Military Institute in the fall.

“I’m really excited to play at the next level,” Jalen Baca said. “The memories with my friends and mom are the best thing about my four years here.”

The party turned emotional when proud dad, Craig Baca, had trouble answering questions. He was choked up, full of emotion watching his second daughter. In his eyes were the years he spent coaching her in the back yard. Craig remembered all the times she would ask him to help her work on her game. Craig was devoted as a dad.

Craig is the husband of a coach, Heather Baca, and the daughter of an athlete. Craig couldn’t help but try to digest all of the things the family has been through to get to this day. The days when he coached Jalen’s travel ball teams for six years. The times he worked extra shifts, just so they could go to clinics and do things as a family. Things that no one would think or know about.

“We’ve worked for this since she was a little kid,” Roswell volleyball coach and mom, Heather Baca said. “She’s been interested in volleyball and has played a lot of volleyball growing up. It’s the sport that she loves and the culmination of all of that hard work.”

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When Craig was choked up about seeing his daughter sign with NMMI, it was about a passage of his daughter, going from his little girl, and growing into a young woman in adulthood. Craig was a mix of emotions to the point that he could not talk when he was asked by RDR Sports what this day meant to him as a dad.

Craig started to choke up and tear up; his wife, Heather, started to get emotional as well, rubbing his back to offer support. Craig composed himself and apologized for being so emotional. Meanwhile, Jalen was all smiles and happy as she took photos with her grandparents, friends and parents. The day seemed more like graduation and celebration than a signing.

“I’m excited for her,” Craig Baca said. “Excited that she has the chance to (go to) a quality college and get a great education, and move on from there afterward. She will be coached by a great coach. I’m happy she gets to do what she loves to do. I’ve instilled in her hard work. She has been at it for so long since she was 6 years old in the backyard working with mom on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m very proud of her.”

Jalen will probably never know how much went into this day to get her where she is until she becomes a mother. For the Baca family, it was a day about family, togetherness, and love — a day the Baca family will cherish forever.

“My favorite thing about coaching my daughter, Jalen,” Roswell volleyball coach, Heather Baca said, “is having the opportunity to watch her grow and develop as a player and leader for four years.”

Jalen was able to help lead Roswell to four consecutive state tournaments. Her last one was the most difficult one. With the Lady Coyotes in the driver’s seat, they were upset against Hobbs on Nov. 5, in 3-2 games. That loss would cost them the regular-season title. The only chance for Roswell to make it into the playoffs would be if they could go on the road in Ralph Tasker Arena, and upset a Hobbs team that had beaten them four days earlier.

Roswell got off the bus on a Saturday with their game face on and meant business. Before Hobbs knew it, the games were over as Roswell won in three straight sets (24-21, 25-22 and 25-18). With that victory, Roswell was able to secure their fourth trip to Albuquerque. On the season, Jalen had 645 digs and 47 aces.

“My mom, Heather, always said, ‘outwork your competition,’” Jalen Baca said. “That was my favorite win in my career. We didn’t know how we were going to do that day, but we all went in ready to play.”

Jalen feels like she will have to work on playing at NMMI’s level next season. The game will be faster for her, but nothing she cannot handle. She feels comfortable having played against Tori Price who is there. One of her favorite memories of her senior year would be her last practice when the team just played.

“I think she is a total package kid,” NMMI coach Shelby Forchtner said. “It’s not necessarily my program, it’s the school in general. She seems like she is a well-respected kid on her team. She seems like she has good leadership skills and she plays volleyball at a high level and has been for a few years now. She’s a super hard worker from what I have seen.”

Forchtner stated that as much as she wants those qualities in her program, she is looking for the right fit with the school as well. Forchtner alluded to the fact that once a kid makes the decision to go to NMMI, they want them to stay there. She also feels Baca could be a leader in the Corps of Cadets and a salutatorian or a valedictorian.

Jalen chose NMMI because of the academics and the volleyball tradition. When she is finished on the court, she would like to be a nutritionist.

“They were good memories,” Jalen Baca said. “I think it will be good to start something new.

With that, Jalen continued to laugh and let the good times roll with her family and friends.