By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — Clovis High coach Darrel Ray knew he was in for a busy week in Albuquerque. And, although there would be no real pain if his team lost, Ray got off to a great start when the South beat the North in the annual Class 3A-4A-5A all-star volleyball match on Tuesday.
At the University of New Mexico’s Johnson Gym, the South pulled out a 25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-11 victory behind the standout setting of Las Cruces High’s Desirae Ceniceros and a solid corps of hitters.
“She (Ceniceros) was just fantastic,” said Ray, the South’s head coach. “Her leadership on the floor and the way she distributed the bal.
“If I had to pick an MVP it would be her. She kept them off-balance and guessing all night long.”
Bethany Self of Portales, who is walking on to play at New Mexico State, was one of the hitting weapons for the South. Onate’s Jessica King, Gadsden’s Liz Castellanos and the Las Cruces duo of Jasmine Hawkins and Katie Arnold keyed the South’s answer for every North comeback throughout the night.
“(Self) did really well,” Ray said. “She helped balance out our attack and gave us a big arm. All the kids did a good job all the way through, but our first lineup was just a little bit more athletic.”
The Class 1A-2A contest preceded the big schools clash and the South also won that one. Two members of Texico’s undefeated 2A championship team, Bryn Mayfield and Brooke Bailey, were on the South squad that earned a 25-15, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18 victory.
In the nightcap, Ray had his first experience of being a head coach for a high school all-star contest.
“That’s the easiest coaching gig we’ve ever had,” he said. “When they come to you with so much experience and so much variety in the skill sets that they bring, all we had to do was manage them and not screw them up.
“I felt like the staff did a good job of getting them together and getting the rust knocked off them a little bit.”
Ray, who also coaches girls track at CHS, is scheduled to pick up two awards from the New Mexico High School Coaches Association at a luncheon on Thursday — one for the Lady Wildcats’ recent Class 5A state track championship for the school, and one for himself as the association’s track coach of the year.
Also a basketball referee, Ray will be on the court Thursday night at The Pit as an official for the Class 4A-5A boys North-South all-star game.
“I hope I can control myself,” Ray said. “I may have to take a sedative sometime during the day.”