CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth/Clovis’ Jessica Hohn passes a serve Saturday’s championship game of the Clovis Invitational against Rio Rancho at Rock Staubus Gym.
the Class 5A state title last year, Clovis coach Darrel Ray bought the Rams’ coaches t-shirts signifying the team’s accomplishment.
That was on the front. On the back of the shirt was a giant bullseye and, if you looked close enough, a few bullet holes — painted purple, no less.
At Rock Staubus gymnasium Saturday night, Clovis hit the target by defeating Rio Rancho 23-25, 25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 15-10 to win its own invitational for the first time in its seven-year history.
Clovis (3-0) was led by tournament MVP Monique Walker’s 14 kills as well as 15 from Jessica Hohn. Senior Alissa McDowell, also selected for the all-tourney squad, added six putaways in the victory.
“We’re really excited — we’re glad we could get the first for the program. We went out and really played for Jessica Wymore,” said McDowell of her teammate, who was injured in a car accident.
Rio Rancho (2-1) won the Clovis tournament last year and seemed quite able to repeat — even without the services of two starters — as the Rams took the first game of the night.
But the host ’Cats broke open a 9-9 deadlock in the second game with a four-point run. The teams mostly traded scores the rest of the way as Hohn got the game-winner on a busted-play kill.
In game three, Walker put away four shots from her middle blocker position while sophomore hitter Aimee Hilburn also added four kills.
After the match, Ray said the move of Walker from outside to middle has helped Clovis become a better team.
“We really had to get better up the middle, because that’s where we were getting beat,” Ray said. “And Aimee Hilburn is probably the biggest key we have. If we didn’t have her, we probably couldn’t have the lineup we have. She’s learning so much every day.”
Clovis led the fourth game 21-16 and appeared to be heading for the match victory then, but the Rams — who were led by Ambur Scott’s 16 kills — roared back to the game win by registering nine of the next 11 points.
But the Wildcats didn’t let that happen again in the final game. Getting kills from Walker, Hohn, Hilburn and McDowell, Clovis won the match when Rio Rancho’s Angelina Baca served a ball into the net.
Earlier in the tournament, Clovis defeated Artesia 25-19, 25-20, 20-13 in a quarterfinal match on Friday. The Wildcats then swept Santa Teresa, another Class 4A team, in the semifinals 25-16, 25-22, 25-16 to earn the berth in the finals.
After the game, Ray talked about his t-shirt gift to Rio Rancho coach Toby Manzanares and the other Rams’ coaches.
“They’re friends of ours — that staff, we’ve worked with them for years. It was more of an appreciative joke for them to know that, ‘Hey, now you’re the big dogs and us — as well as the rest of the state — are going to be looking for you,’” Ray said. “We’ll take our shots here. And we hope we get a shot later.”