By Kevin Wilson
In front of about four dozen high school athletes hoping for varsity volleyball spots, coach Gabe Apodaca had four things for them to know.
Hitting. Passing. Setting. Serving.
“If you can do all four, you’ll be able to play volleyball,” Apodaca told the seated group Monday evening. “If you are lacking in one of them, you may have trouble making the team.”
The 48 players — 10 seniors, 13 juniors, 24 sophomores and one freshman — were evaluated Monday in those areas at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. The process will repeat for the next few days before Apodaca and his staff rate the players from 0 to 5 on those areas, plus their coachability.
The top 36 stay, and the best 12 will make up the varsity roster when Clovis hosts Palo Duro Aug. 26 to begin its first season in the new Class 6A. Clovis leaves the three-team District 4-5A where it regularly bested Carlsbad and Hobbs, and will reside with those two teams and Alamogordo in District 4-6A.
The senior-laden 2013 squad went 15-8, losing to Mayfield in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
There’s plenty of opportunity for the new ones, as there are nine varsity spots left vacant due to graduation. The three players with varsity experience, all seniors, are setter Dakota Grummer, middle blocker Shaylee Warner and outside hitter Danni Williams.
“What we’re trying to see is how some of the younger ones play against the older ones,” Apodaca said. “Up to sophomore year, they’ve always played their own age. Now, they’re possibly playing girls two grades ahead of them.”
The 5-foot-11 Warner said some work over the summer helped, but there are a lot of new teammates and playing styles to welcome to the fold.
“I’d say the main thing,” said Grummer, who led Clovis with 383 assists last season, “is going to be getting into a team mode.”
Williams was fourth on last season’s Lady Cats squad with 117 kills, while Warner had 47.
Apodaca said the squad has been going non-stop since July 1, but that it’s sometimes difficult to gauge improvement when they’re only playing each other.
Case in point, Apodaca brought a dozen of his top players over the summer to a tournament last weekend in Rio Rancho, and the team had a tough time against Rio Rancho, Cleveland and Centennial.
“We took some knocks,” Apodaca said, “but we did get to see some good things.”