PNT Staff Writer
The Elida Lady Tigers (21-0) volleyball team is in the Class A state volleyball tournament for the second time in as many years, but this time, they believe things are different.
Elida rolled through their regular season with an undefeated 20-0 mark, followed by a three games to one defeat of Fort Sumner in the District 3-1A championship match to move to 21-0, but Elida head coach Darrell Chenault doesn’t view his team as a favorite in the state playoffs.
“I know our record is good,” Chenault said. “But I know Fort Sumner and Tatum are really good teams, they both have been there, and done that. One of our concerns is getting to state and handling the pressure of state. Until somebody beats Tatum and Fort Sumner, I’m sorry, but I think they’re the two to look out for.”
Chenault and the Lady Tigers know full well just how good Fort Sumner is — after all, they played them twice in the district regular season, and then again in the District 3-1A championship match. The Vixens took the first game of the district title 25-14, but the Elida girls regrouped and took the next three games, 28-26, 25-19 and 25-16, but Fort Sumner earned the respect of Chenault.
“They’re a power team,” Chenault said. “They come at you with power hitters, and if they get on their game, they’re tough. You’ve got to kind of get them out of that game where they can’t hit the ball hard, and they can’t get those blocks set up and if you can get that done you’re fine, but if they get on a roll, they’ve just got some phenomenal athletes that can get after you with hitting and blocking.”
Elida begins the pool play preliminaries this evening, playing Roy, Carrizozo and Animas before they placed in the Class 1A tournament bracket. The state quarterfinals begin Thursday morning.
The Elida girls made it to the state volleyball tournament last year, but were sent packing in the first round. Chenault says that experience, combined with several girls on the team having state basketball experience, will help them cope with the pressure that comes with championship caliber matches.
“We went to state last year and got beat in the first round,” Chenault explained. “Most of our girls are on the basketball team and they made it to the (state) semifinals last year. We’re yet to be tested in a very big game, like a state playoff game, I guess that’s my biggest concern.”