By Ryan Lengerich
Perhaps the Lady Rattlers volleyball team has a bright future.
Starting four freshmen, a sophomore and a junior Tucumcari led at some point in each game in the match against Clayton Thursday.
But the Rattlers (2-17, 0-8) were unable to hang on and finished winless in the 2003 district season with a 23-25, 15-25, 20-25 loss to the Lady Yellow Jackets (7-12, 3-4).
“I am very proud,” said Lady Rattlers head coach Nicole Bright Lesly. “They have nothing to hang there heads about.”
Tucumcari was missing both seniors to injury and ineligibility, and Lesly was forced to use a lineup laced with freshmen and sophomores with little varsity experience. The young players had not practiced much together prior to Thursday.
The Lady Rattlers came out fired up on parents night an opened a 10-5 lead after an ace by junior Autumn Moore. A kill by sophomore Jamie Jones pushed the score to 19-15 and Clayton head coach Julian Guitierrez called timeout with the score 20-15.
The Rattlers would hold the lead at 23-20 before surrendering five straight points behind the serving of Clayton’s Nyla McNaghten.
The Rattlers once again jumped out early in the second game taking an early 5-3 lead. Clayton would take the lead at 11-10 when Clayton’s Lindsay Fluhman served 6 straight points putting the game out of reach.
A huge Clayton kill by Krista Simpson made the score 19-15 and McNaghten would run off six consecutive points on serve to win the game.
“We have been up and down all year,” Guitierrez said. “We just have to keep hustling and playing hard.”
Tucumcari opened another early lead in the third game and held the lead 16-15 when Lesly called timeout. Clayton would take their first lead of the game 17-16 and two Tucumcari hitting errors. Tucumcari would get as close as three points late in the game but Clayton hung on for the three game sweep.
The Lady Rattlers will open district tournament play on the road Tuesday most likely against Clayton or Santa Rosa.
Lesly said despite the tough season she is still holding out hope for a run in the district tournament.
“Anything can happen,” she said. “You start with a bunch of young kids and you have nowhere to go but up.”