By Eric Butler
June is definitely a time of transition for high school volleyball teams.
And the so-called “Rally at Da Rock,” held Friday and Saturday at Rock Staubus gymnasium, is right at the beginning of the learning curve.
The normal array of coaching changes and player transfers were part of the picture when 10 prep teams began the round-robin competition at Clovis High School.
There was also some new twists for the athletes: two major rule changes that will be implemented in the fall for the first time.
Rally scoring, in which points are scored no matter which team served, was used in the event. When the 2003 prep season begins, New Mexico squads will play best three-out-of-five rally scoring games to 25.
Also utilized over the weekend was a new rule for serving. No longer will a serve that clips the net — but falls in anyway — be ruled illegal.
“I like the rally scoring,” Clovis outside hitter Jessica Hohn said. “It makes us more aware of our serving — especially at the end.”
“Yeah, we’ve got a couple of rule changes, but this allows us to work on those things,” Clovis coach Darrel Ray said. “And we come out of this thing knowing a little more about what we have in the way of talent.”
Clovis had three teams in the field (varsity, junior varsity and C-team), while Hobbs had two (varsity and varsity). The other schools — Goddard, Texico, Lovington, Tatum and Robertson — had one each.
For one Clovis coach, C-team leader Cristy Hill, the experience was literally a change from old to new at the same time.
Hill, who graduated from Clovis High in 1984, was Lovington’s varsity coach for the past 10 years. She took the C-team job at her alma mater when her husband, Loran, took an assistant principal job at Marshall Junior High.
While Hill only was introduced to her new Clovis players on Friday, she was still coaching her old Lovington team during the competition.
That’s because Lovington has not hired a replacement for her as yet.
“It’s hard,” said Hill, after her old Wildcats team took a pair of games from the Hobbs varsity. “Most of these girls are seniors, so I’ve basically coached them their whole career. But I didn’t want to leave them stranded here either.”
On Saturday afternoon, the two teams — Clovis and Texico — with the top overall marks played each other. Clovis won 25-21, 25-20 to run its record to 12-0. Texico, which hadn’t lost since its first game against Hobbs, was 11-3 after the two losses.
“We’re playing a little better than I thought we would. We’ve got three starters back and we’re breaking in a new setter,” said Littlejohn, who loses setter Melissa Roberts in a transfer to Clovis but recently found out that Ashley Kidd — who had contemplated the same move — had decided to stay.
“We made some dumb mistakes (against Clovis), but we also had some really good points,” Littlejohn said.
Other coaches were similarly optimistic about their teams’ play over the weekend.
“It’s great experience for our kids. We have a new transfer kid in, so this is a good time to get some playing time with our kids and see how our system works,” said Hobbs coach Brenda Wilson, a Melrose graduate from 1984 who was a prep standout in volleyball and basketball. “We enjoy coming to Clovis. This is a positive step for us.”