By Dave Wagner
Coach Darrel Ray thinks this could be a special season for the Clovis High volleyball team.
The Lady Wildcats expected to get an indication of their potential on Saturday in an eight-team scrimmage session at Rio Rancho, with matches against the defending Class 5A champion Lady Rams, La Cueva, Eldorado and Las Cruces High, among others.
“It’ll be an indication of what we’re going to do,” said Ray, whose team was expected to play everyone in Saturday’s scrimmage session except District 4-5A rival Eldorado. “Most of those schools are in the top echelon of big schools in the state.”
The Lady Cats, who lost to La Cueva in the regional round of postseason play last fall, are hoping their senior-laden team can move into that elite group this year.
Five seniors return to the starting lineup, led by 5-10 senior all-stater Monique Walker. Ray has moved Walker from an outside hitter position into the middle to try to take advantage of her athleticism.
He can do that, in part, because of 5-11 sophomore Aimee Hilburn, who is stepping into an outside position.
“She’s doing a good job,” Ray said of Hilburn. “She’s still got things to learn, but her size and physical ability make her a valuable asset. She gives us a chance to have a more balanced attack, and we can move Monique inside.”
The Lady Cats have likely lost 5-8 senior middle hitter Jessica Wymore for the season after she was involved in an automobile accident just before the start of practice earlier this month. That leaves the team a little thinner, and Ray said they can ill afford any more injuries.
“We haven’t got great depth, and we especially can’t afford to lose anyone off the front row,” he said. “If we lose any more size, we’re going to find ourselves being hit on by good offensive teams.”
Dani Millender, a 5-2 senior defensive specialist, said the team will miss Wymore’s presence.
“We really miss Jess, and this season’s for her,” she said.
Millender, who split time on the junior varsity and as a varsity reserve last year, added that the Lady Cats don’t worry about others’ expectations of them because they have high goals for themselves.
“People may have their expectations, but we’re going to play to our ability,” she said. “We have a very talented team. We have a lot of good seniors, and Aimee will help us out with her size.”
In the three previous years since the makeup of District 4-5A changed, Clovis has won one district title (2000) while Eldorado has won the past two.
“We want to get in a position where we can even it up,” Ray said. “I think after (Saturday’s scrimmage), we’ll have a pretty good idea.”