Small-school teams battle for state berths

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

On paper, the Texico volleyball team appears to be in good shape heading into this weekend’s Class 2A Region C tournament, which the Lady Wolverines will host.

Texico, the District 6-2A champion, faces 7-2A runnerup Dexter (13-10) in the first of two semifinal matches at 5 p.m. today. The Lady Wolverines (16-5) have a combined 4-0 record against 7-2A champion Eunice (12-8) and 6-2A runnerup Santa Rosa (9-13), who meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m.

“We should be (favored), but that’s all on paper,” said Texico coach Mike Littlejohn, in his 27th season at the school. “We’re not taking anything for granted.”

The winner of tonight’s semifinals will play for the regional championship at 10 a.m. Saturday. The top two teams from each of the state’s four regionals advanced to next week’s State Tournament in Albuquerque.

Littlejohn, who has nine trips to state championship matches and four state titles to his credit, said it comes down to how his squad plays. Twice in the past three seasons, Texico has been eliminated in the regional semifinals.

Dexter’s top players are senior outside hitter Stephanie Silvas and senior setter Andrea Batista, Littlejohn said.
“They usually pass the ball pretty well and play pretty good defense,” he said of the Lady Demons. “If we’ll take care of business, I think we’ll be all right.”

Three area teams are competing in Class 1A Region A at San Jon today, with Fort Sumner (15-6) facing Grady (14-6) at 3 p.m. and Clovis Christian (17-6) taking on Elida (11-8) at 5 p.m. Winners meet in Saturday’s title match at 6 p.m.
Clovis Christian’s facility did not meet NMAA seating requirements and thus the regional was moved.

The Lady Eagles are coming off a four-game win in Friday’s District 4-1A tournament championship game at Grady.
“The girls are concentrating on Friday night,” CCS coach Ceil Boatman said. “I think if our girls are on their game, they’ll do fine.”

Clovis Christian has not played Elida this season, but Boatman watched the Lady Tigers in their District 3-1A tournament finals loss Saturday at Fort Sumner.

“They’re scrappy, and they’ve got a couple of good hitters,” she said. “At this point, it’s just a matter of who’s got the most desire and the most heart.”

Fort Sumner is the defending 1A state champion, but has had to rebuild after losing much of its squad to graduation.
“We’re young and inexperienced; there are times when we have three freshmen out there,” said veteran coach Lisa McMath, who also led the Vixens to state crowns in 1996 and 2000. “I think if we pass well and communicate effectively, we’ll have a good shot.”

Grady lost to the Vixens in an early-season match, and also was eliminated from last year’s state tournament by Fort Sumner in the quarterfinal round.

Lady Bronchos coach Missi Glover bemoaned last week’s loss to CCS, which cost her team homecourt advantage this weekend.

“We kind of put ourselves in a bind when we lost to Clovis Christian,” she said. “We just didn’t show up after the first game.

“But I think we’ll be fine if we can keep our heads in the game and execute on offense. We’ve been struggling with our offense lately.”