After four years as Darrel Ray’s assistant, Gabe Apodaca is ready to slide into the hot seat.
Apodaca will make his Clovis High varsity head coaching debut Tuesday when the Lady Wildcats host Amarillo Palo Duro at Rock Staubus Gym.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Apodaca said. “I was fortunate to be able to work with Darrel; he was a mentor to me.”
Ray, now coaching as an assistant at Friona, led the Lady Wildcats to 10 consecutive trips to the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Clovis won’t have the size it has had in the past, but will build around the experience of senior libero Felicia Aguilar, junior outside hitters Paige Gardner and Kristi Shough and junior middle hitter Alek Mendoza.
Aguilar, Shough and Mendoza are third-year starters. Apodaca said the Lady Cats have a strong junior class.
“We’re looking at a different philosophy right now,” he said. “We’re going to play ‘fast-tempo volleyball. We’re going to kind of run-and-gun, like a basketball team.
“We’ll try to do something different because I believe we’re real athletic.”
Clovis is hoping to pick up the service of junior middle hitter Kayleigh Mitchell, a transfer from Onate High School in Las Cruces.
“She really adds to our offensive power,” Apodaca said. “I’m anticipating her being eligible, hopefully before our tournament (next weekend at Rock Staubus Gym).”
Aguilar said she thinks Apodaca’s proposed style of play will be good for the team.
“I think it’s going to be a good look for us,” she said. “We’re a young team now. Like coach Apodaca said, we have to find our identity as a team.”
She said that as one of the few seniors, she tries to keep her teammates’ spirits up.
“I work really hard to keep our heads up,” she said. “We’re moving at a steady pace to figure out who we are.”
The Lady Cats (14-8 overall, 4-0 District 4-5A last season) have generally had their way in the district against Carlsbad and Hobbs in recent years. That could change a little this year, Apodaca said, noting that CHS saw Carlsbad during summer ball.
“Carlsbad is going to have to be reckoned with,” he said. “We’re going to have to play our tails off against them.”