Volcano Vista’s volleyball girls faced a tough opponent Saturday. Namely, the La Cueva Bears who had won the 5A state championship 12 times. The Hawks went into the championship game without state tournament experience. Volcano Vista High School has only been in existence for four years. But the girls, led by head coach Samantha Lucero, won the match that went into overtime.
The marathon match lasted a 40 minute first half, a 40 minute second half and four 10 minute overtimes before the game was decided on penalty kicks. “I knew we were going to be tired. But that’s where the fitness came in,” said Lucero in an interview with Kenny Barreras on APS Sportscenter. “My game plan was to seal the deal in regulation time. But that didn’t happen. We’re not very good in PKs (penalty kicks). But I had confidence in my goalkeeper. It was a defensive battle. My goalkeeper came out with two huge saves. In the last 10 weeks we practiced PKs after each practice.”
Lucero had a lot of confidence in her players during the regular season and during the state championship tournament. “When we beat Sandia during the semis, I just felt we were going all the way this year. The last two years we went only as far as the semifinals. And we knew this year we didn’t want to stop there, ” she said.
The Volcano Vista Hawks were ranked number one during the regular season after knocking off Sandia High School and Cleveland High School. But according to the coach her team didn’t have a good going during the metro city championship tournament. Barreras asked her what she thought was the turning point of the team’s season. “I would say it was when I put Hana in as our goalkeeper. We were on a high and didn’t lose a single game until Cleveland beat us in the last three seconds and went on to win the district title. It was sad for us. But being the third seed (in the state tournament) was actually good for us because we were able to get a rest and take care of some injuries,” said Lucero.
Barreras asked Lucero, “when did your team become a legitimate contender? “I think it became a legitimate contender in the second year. They had a positive attitude. They said we’re here now and things are going to change. I knew that if we went out and worked hard we could win in the next five years,” she said. Lucero, who won two state championships as a Golden Eagle at Eldorado High School, gave a lot of credit to her assistant coaches. She indicated that the assistant coaches have a different relationship with the players than they do with the head coach. “A lot of times it’s good cop and bad cop with the relationship between coaches and the kids,” she said. “I have instituted some of the drills as a coach here that I hated as a player. Now I realize how necessary they are now that I’m in this position as coach. I wish I could make it all fun for the girls but I have to set standards and instill discipline.”
It’s going to be a very long time before the smiles and the happiness fade away at the school campus. “People ask me what’s better, winning as a coach or as a player. I say as a coach because I get to see the excitement and the smiles on the players’ faces. The good feeling won’t go away for a while,” Lucero said with a smile on her own face.