By Eric Butler
CLOVIS — Elida’s volleyball team cut a swath of surprise into the Clovis Volleyball Invitational a year ago and, in 2003, the Tigers got the chance to do it again.
While the little Class 1A team didn’t pull off as many surprises as last year when they advanced all the way to the quarterfinals and almost beat Clovis, Elida nevertheless did make some more dents in the 16-team field this year.
On Friday, for instance, the Tigers knocked off defending Class 3A state champion St. Michael’s 13-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-20.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” said Elida outside hitter Keisha Chenault, one of two seniors — with setter Halee Best — for the Tigers. “It feels wonderful, like we really accomplished something. And it gives us great competition and gets us ready for the season.”
Another defending state champ, St. Pius in Class 4A, also felt the impact of Elida.
St. Pius finished in a three-way tie with West Las Vegas and Portales in its pool on Friday. But the Sartans ended up third, after a tiebreaker based upon total points within the pool was added up.
The Sartans only beat Elida 25-22, 25-23, which hurt St. Pius in the tiebreaker. On Saturday, the Sartans and Tigers met again — with St. Pius sweeping the match 25-19, 25-22, 25-8.
In its last match of the day, Elida overcame a 2-0 game deficit and forced a deciding fifth game against Lovington. But the Wildcats eventually tamed the Tigers, winning 25-12, 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 15-12.
“They’ve got good athletes at their school — it shows on their volleyball team. What they do is impressive,” St. Pius coach Ryan Sakamoto said. “They’ve got a long way to go, but they could be on top of what they want to do.”
“It’s kind of like a little guy fighting a big guy — we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “We’re looking down the road. We know how tough Des Moines is. We know how tough Tatum and Fort Sumner are. They can play at this level, so we’ve got to get this level of competition.”