The 2022-2023 Goddard High School varsity volleyball team became the 2022 Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q State Champions in Class 4A last Saturday, beating St. Pius X in three sets at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
In the double-elimination tournament, Goddard's first opponent was Albuquerque Academy and the Lady Rockets won in four sets, losing the second set 25-23. In the quarterfinals, Goddard played the Hope Christian Huskies on Friday morning and defeated them in four sets.
After the match against the Huskies, Rocket senior setter Alia Gray said she remembered the pain of losing against Artesia. Daughter of Andrew Gray who won championships for Goddard in football and baseball, Alia is proud to have her mark in Goddard’s program.
“It hurt last year when we lost against Artesia,” Gray said after Goddard’s win against Hope Christian. “I’m ready to win. We’re ready to win. This is just the next step to keep going.”
The Lady Rockets lost against their rival the Artesia Bulldogs in the 2021 Class 4A semifinals in five sets.
“I felt like we had the talent to win everything last year, but we just couldn’t,” Gray said. “To finally accomplish what we’ve been trying so hard to complete, it just feels amazing. It’s one thing to be hungry and another thing to be starving, and we were starving.”
Goddard volleyball assistant coach Kendra Smith shared her thoughts on the team’s development.
“I was really impressed by how the girls took on each individual game and take something from it that they applied to the next game,” Smith said. “They weren’t satisfied with the growth that they had this season and they really tried to learn something from each game to grow towards that last game.”
Goddard volleyball assistant coach Hannah Manemann said that the girls did not immediately buy into the program this year.
“I think this entire season was a little rocky for us,” Manemann said. “They didn’t necessarily buy in as a team but as the season went on, they finally realize that it’s not about me, it’s about us, and what can I do to help the team. They all bring different qualities to the table and once they bought in, they played as one team. You could just see it. Everyone was on board, everyone was cheering, everyone was doing their job, and it was fun to watch.
In the semifinals, Goddard defeated Pojoaque Valley in four sets, again dropping the second set. Senior outside hitter Alissa Benavides is the second option in the Goddard offense. She said that the team had great “failure recovery” and that the only play that matters is what is next.
“Everyone had the same goal at the end and everyone knew what it takes to get towards that goal,” Benavides said. “Everyone knew that we are going to have to fight and that it wasn’t going to be easy. There are going to plays where we are going to fight extra hard to get out of. Everyone just had the same mindset that it wasn’t going to be easy and that we are just going to have to work, work and work.”
Despite losing their second set in their previous matchups, the Lady Rockets only needed three sets against St. Pius X in the championship match.
“In set one, we were down. It was a back-and-forth battle,” Lady Rockets Volleyball head coach Dewayne Roberts said. “I think nerves have a little bit but we settled in and started chipping to their lead. We ended up winning 29-27 on that first set.”
With momentum on their side, the Lady Rockets plowed through the Sartans in the second set, winning the second set 25-16.
“We were going,” Roberts said. “We felt good going into the third set knowing that we only need one more win to secure a state championship for the first time in nine years. We started hot but they caught up and then it was back and forth. We pulled away and we won 25-20.”
Goddard senior middle hitter Sophia Valdez played a major role in the Lady Rockets offense, putting up 15 kills against St. Pius X. Valdez has been the Lady Rockets’ go-to player to get kills throughout this season and has been with the varsity team since she was a freshman.
“I went to state every single year so I think I just got used to it,” Valdez said. “I just took it in and I very happy that the team can count on me to get a point.”
Alongside Valdez were junior setter Mireya Armendariz and senior setter Alia Gray combined for 26 assists in their game against Pius. This is Armendariz’s second year with the volleyball team.
“Going into this year, we have the exact same team that we did last year. I think that’s what helped us because we stayed close,” Armendariz said. “Also, not winning last year pushed us this year to really compete.”
The Goddard Rockets volleyball team ended their season with a 23-4 record and 6-0 in district play. This championship is the 12th volleyball trophy in program history.
“This is the third championship game since I have been the head coach,” Roberts said. “For us to finally get it done is a testament to the girls’ dedication and hard work. This is a special team that can add to the legacy and mission of Goddard volleyball. I’m just happy to be a part of the program and tradition."
Sports reporter Blynn Juliano Beltran can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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