Clovis’ Siobhan Flatow hits the ball over Tatum’s Amanda Parks during the championship game in the Clovis Invitational volleyball tournament Saturday at Rock Stabus Gymnasium. Tatum defeated Clovis is straight sets. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Tatum Lady Coyotes had no problems blowing through the 16-team field in the ninth annual Clovis Invitational volleyball tournament over the weekend at Rock Staubus Gym. Still, to be honest, they have bigger fish to fry.
The senior-dominated Class 1A squad won the tournament with a 25-12, 25-13, 25-15 victory over the host Lady Wildcats in Saturday night’s championship match, but the Lady Coyotes are thinking more long-term after falling short of a 1A state title each of the past three seasons.
“We’ve lost in the finals now two years in a row, and the year before that we got third,” said Amanda Parks, one of six seniors on the team. “Winning this shows we can play with the bigger schools.”
Clovis (2-2) led 4-2 and 5-3 in the first game, but the Lady Coyotes (3-0) took off on an 8-1 run and never let the Lady Cats back in it.
Senior outside hitters Bianca Lopez (18 kills) and Sage Jones (13) did most of the damage, getting solid sets from senior Jenice Stephens. Lopez and Jones were named to the all-tournament squad.
“We have a good chance (of winning state),” said Mike Majors, the Clovis resident who is in his 12th season as Tatum’s coach. “We’ve got a quality crew. We’ve said for the last few years that these girls could compete with the big schools because of our style of play — mistake-free volleyball.
“With rally scoring, our style is a little more conducive to success.”
Parks added that the fact the seniors have played together since seventh grade doesn’t hurt.
“Me and Reahannon (Lizardo, senior defensive specialist) can just read each other’s minds in the back row,” Parks said. “The communication is just so much easier.”
The Lady Cats beat Albuquerque Academy three games and Sante Fe High in four during the first two rounds of bracket play. Tournament MVP Aimee Hilburn had 12 kills in the finals for Clovis, but it was a disappointing finish for a team that is still a work in progress after last year’s 5-16 record.
“We’d been serving well and serve-receiving well all day long, but we didn’t pass (well against Tatum),” CHS coach Darrel Ray said. “That was the most disappointing part.
“When it went south for us, it went south all the way.”
Ray said the Lady Cats had a tough time adjusting to Tatum’s style.
“They’re very fundamentally sound, and they’ve been in the gym a lot,” he said. “(Majors) does a good job of teaching fundamentals, and they work with what they’ve got.
“They just didn’t make many mistakes.”
Despite an overall size advantage, the Lady Cats couldn’t do much with either Lopez or Jones, who consistently beat their blocks with a variety of attacks.
Majors said Stephens is the best setter he’s had in his time at Tatum, and Lopez and Jones are among the best hitters.
“Everybody in the gym knows where we’re going, but we just dare you to stop us,” he said. “Those girls hit with control and they hit to spots.”
He added that it was to Clovis’ credit that it would invite a small-school power to its invitational.
“They’ve got nothing to gain, everything to lose,” he said. “It takes a lot of guts to invite a small school like us to this tournament.”
At Rock Staubus Gym
Gold (championship) bracket
Academy def. Lovington 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 26-24); Lubbock Christian def. Moriarty 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-14).
Tatum def. St. Michael’s 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-20); Clovis def. Santa Fe 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-15).
Lubbock Christian def. Lovington 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-20).
Moriarty def. Academy 3-2 (12-25, 13-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-11).
Santa Fe def. St. Michael’s 3-1 (25-14, 25-18, 17-25, 25-23).
Tatum def. Clovis 3-0 (25-12, 25-13, 25-15).
Silver (consolation) bracket
Capital def. Raton, score n/a; West Las Vegas def. El Paso Del Valle 25-9, 23-25, 10-25, 27-25, 15-6.
Hobbs def. Los Lunas 3-2 (25-23, 15-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-10); Bel Air def. Portales 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 15-8).
Del Valle def. Raton 3-0 (25-12, 25-11, 25-17).
West Las Vegas def. Capital 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 21-25, 25-15, 15-7).
Portales def. Los Lunas 3-1 (25-19, 25-15, 19-25, 25-16).
Bel Air def. Hobbs 3-1 (25-13, 22-25, 25-18, 25-10).
Gold bracket championship
Tatum 3, Clovis 0
Tatum 25 25 25
Clovis 12 13 15
Kills — Tatum, Bianca Lopez 18, Sage Jones 13. Clovis, Aimee Hilburn 12, Siobhan Flatow 6, Jasmine McDonald 6. Blocks — Tatum, Amanda Lopez 1, Amanda Parks 1. Clovis, Flatow 1. Aces — Tatum, Jenice Stephens 6, Lynda Ramirez 3. Clovis — four tied with 1. Records — Tatum 3-0, Clovis 2-2.