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Establishing tradition at Mescalero

Photo by Todd Fuqua Katelyn Yuzos is the only senior returning from last year set to play for the Mescalero volleyball team this season.

MESCALERO – Ruidoso’s volleyball team isn’t the only one that’s gone through a lot of coaches over the past few years.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Samantha Kazhe keeps her eye on the ball during Mescalero volleyball practice, Aug. 7.

Capitan has also experienced some upheavals at the position, although the Tigers at least have landed NHSACA Hall of Fame coach Pam Allen.

Mescalero is on its fourth volleyball coach in as many seasons, but now they’ve got a coach that they are familiar with.

Alice Velasquez has joined husband Leonard – coach of the Chief football team – at Mescalero to lead the Chief netters, and has brought along sophomore daughter Fallon to augment the team.

Since Alice had coached the girls basketball team at Hondo – and since the Eagles always play Mescalero during the season – it’s not like the Chiefs don’t know their new coach already.

“It’s still a challenge to learn the new rules, learn the kids and learn what they can do,” Velasquez said. “We were at the Rio Rancho jamboree (this summer) and we spent most of the time finding a combination that will work.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Mescalero sophomore Alyn Kazhe-Kirgan performs a plank during warmups for volleyball practice, Aug. 7.

“I think we can do really well if we just learn to move,” she added. “As long as we’re accountable for our serves and our passes.”

Mescalero was 12-11 with a 2-4 record in District 3-2A. Not too bad, but Velasquez knows it could be better, given the caliber of athletes on the squad.

The real problem is that Mescalero has been a basketball school for decades, with volleyball being something of an also-ran.

“We have great athletes, but with volleyball you can’t hide anybody. It’s very skill-specific,” Velasquez said. “The ball can come to you and you have to perform that skill.”

Photo by Todd Fuqua Sophomore Fallon Velasquez has made the transfer from Hondo to Mescalero this year, following her mother – Alice – to the Chief volleyball and basketball teams.

Although the Chiefs lost a ton of senior players from last year, sophomore Fallon Velasquez joins a team with athletes like Katelyn Yuzos, Paris Davis, Alyn Kazhe-Kirgan and Yvonne Douglas.

Of those four, only Yuzos is a senior.

“We’re really sophomore and freshmen loaded,” Velasquez said. “We even have some eighth graders in here, and we can play them. They could come around, so we’ll see how we can do.”

Mesilla Valley and Lordsburg had Mescalero’s number last year in district – although the Chiefs were able to defeat Lordsburg in the district tournament to secure a winning record and get to the district title match.

Excepting Hagerman, District 3-2A opponents are the only Class 2A teams the Chiefs face all season, but there’s some pretty good 3A teams on the schedule, including State runner up Dexter.

It’s all meant to test Mescalero as much as possible, of course, and to prepare them for a hopeful State tournament bid.

“Changing from the old to the new is always difficult,” Velasquez said. “But it’s pretty fun.”

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