The times, they are a changin’ for the Bobcats.
This weekend, the Ignacio High School volleyball team has a chance to do something it hasn’t done in more than a decade: If the winds don’t change, the Bobcats could be heading to the postseason after Saturday’s San Juan Basin Class 2A District 3 Tournament in their home gymnasium.
“Big stuff,” as assistant coach Molly Malarsie puts it.
The program has rebuilt itself this year, starting with the addition of new head coach Thaddeus Cano, who inherited all of former coach Bayli Stillwell’s hard work. The Bobcats also have locked down their training regiment, adding summer workouts, two-a-day practices and a strict discipline that has aided in their first winning season since 2004 – “a pretty huge deal” in itself, Malarsie said.
But more than all that “brand new everything,” Malarsie said this season is all about the girls’ dedication, led by seniors Destinee Lucero, Michelle Simmons and Mariah Vigil.
Ignacio is 13-6 overall, including victories over Class 4A New Mexico teams Aztec and Kirtland Central, and the Bobcats finished the regular season 8-6 in the San Juan Basin League.
“I think all the girls really want to succeed in honor of each other, and that’s incredibly powerful,” Malarsie said. “They want to do well for each other.
“The stuff happening on the court is only about volleyball.” And volleyball isn’t over yet.
Saturday’s tournament, which will start at 9 a.m. at IHS, puts a handful of league competitors between the Bobcats and a regional tournament berth.
First up for the IHS girls is Ridgway, starting at about 10:30 a.m.
The Bobcats already have beaten the Demons twice this year – 3-1, 3-0 – but Ignacio isn’t taking anything for granted.
“This league, anything can happen on any given day, so you cannot overlook any one team,” Malarsie said.
Then, the Bobcats get their real test.
In the second round of pool play, Ignacio will take on the only team that’s beaten them twice this year: the Dolores Bears.
“So that’s going to be a big deal,” Malarsie said.
Dolores won both matches 3-1, but Malarsie said her girls allowed elements of play that are usually positives to become negatives. The Bobcats didn’t move their feet and got plenty of touches on blocks – bad touches.
“We weren’t, as a program, we weren’t prepared,” Malarsie said. “I think this weekend will be a lot different.”
The keys this time, Malarsie said, will be serving, which the Bobcats do really well in practice before often stumbling in match situations, and “believing in ourselves.”
“Sometimes you get it in your head that you know what other people are going to do ... but we stressed going in there not worrying about who you’re playing but how you’re playing.”
The winners of each pool – the other consists of Mancos, Nucla and Telluride – will play a final match for first and second place. The runners-up in each pool will play for third and fourth place.
The top team earns regional tournament-hosting duties, and the top three will get to compete in it.
“They feel good,” Malarsie said about the Bobcats.
“I think they’re just ready for it to be here.”