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New St. Michael’s head volleyball coach Valerie Sandoval

New St. Michael’s head volleyball coach Valerie Sandoval gets the program in play with Wednesday night’s initial practice hoping to bring together a good nucleus led by Miquela Martinez

A 1996 St. Michael’s graduate, Sandoval played Lady Horsemen volleyball, basketball and softball, and was later an assistant volleyball coach

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin

St. Michael’s new head volleyball coach Valerie Sandoval has been spending some time in Las Vegas at a volleyball tournament, but will be back in Santa Fe Wednesday for the Lady Horsemen’s initial practice.

Volleyball, volleyball, volleyball is her game. Along with basketball and softball, that’s what she played until she graduated St. Michael’s in 1996, and now with her daughter and step-daughter on the roster, she’s just excited to be back with the program after former head coach, Josie Adams, resigned after two seasons.

As for Las Vegas, that’s where her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa, was playing in a tournament. “She played very well,” said her mom, “and they won the bronze medals.”

Figures to be another from her family joining up in due time. Currently, Valerie can count on her daughter, 5-foot-4 senior Alyssa Sandoval, and stepdaughter, 5-10 senior Sierra Moya.

Mix that in with the return of 10 players off the team that went 16-8 last year, advanced to the state tournament for the first time in four years, and tied for first place in District 2-4A with a 6-2 record. It entered the state tournament as a 4th seed.

“We have a very strong corps coming back,” said the new head coach who played Lady Horsemen volleyball under Chela Butler, who won the program’s lone state championship in 2002. “We lost a few hitters, but get back a good nucleus”

It was good news for Sandoval when she was informed last Thursday night by athletic director Tom Manning that the job was hers.

“My girls didn’t even know that I applied,” she said. “I kept it from them until it was a done deal. Now I’m just very excited about all this.”

Sandoval said she had applied when the position became vacant after then head coach Steve Long was not rehired. Adams was hired, but stayed only two years before resigning.

She’s very familiar with this team. Alyssa and Sierra play summer club ball in Albuquerque with others from the squad, so she’s already seen most of them in action. In addition, there’s club volleyball all year round for these players in Albuquerque, so it’s anything but a new look for Sandoval.

Not surprising, most impressive has been 5-6 junior Miquela Martinez, who returns for her fourth season on varsity.

“She’s just outstanding,” said the coach. “She’s a leader and simply an all-around player.”

Martinez, also on the golf team that just won the state title, will probably spend five years with the program, the most ever at St. Michael’s. Former players Laine Serna and Danielle Trujillo were around for four years.

Sandoval, who is employed by the Children’s Youth and Family Department in Santa Fe, attended New Mexico State strictly for academics and then transferred to the University of Phoenix where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in business. She also added on an Associates Degree from Santa Fe Community College.

As a Lady Horsemen, she also played basketball and softball, gaining the state tournament with all three teams, as well as being named All-District in all of them and being selected to the North-South All-Star team in softball. She has also served as an assistant coach under Butler for three years, and under Long for two.

“To tell the truth,” she had, “I actually like all of these sports. In volleyball, I played defensive specialist until my senior year where I played all positions, I played shortstop in softball under head coach Roseanne Noedel, and was a guard in basketball.”

Her husband, Anthony, attended Aztec High and played basketball there and at Fort Lewis College in Kansas. She said her Daughter, Alyssa, has been playing volleyball since the age of 11.

“My husband is very happy that I got the position,” said Sandoval, “and so are the girls.”

As far as putting together a staff, she acknowledged that varsity assistant Paul Sandoval (no relation) will not be returning, and that assistant Ian Longacre is not a certainty. She said she met with team manager, Chris Blea, who will be a senior, and she’s not sure if he has decided to be back.

Others expected to return are 5-4 junior Darian Ortiz, 5-4 junior Gabriella Padilla, 5-7 sophomore Molly Maestas, 6-foot junior Mikayla Bohlman, 5-4 senior Kyra Chavez, 6-2 freshman Lily Barker, and 5-4 junior Angela Griego, That makes for a roster of one freshman, one sophomore, four juniors and four seniors.

There’s height, there’s experience, there’s optimism as the new coach steps in. In district play last season, Martinez was first in assists (942) and aces (56). Ortiz was second in digs with 545, Bohlman was fourth in blocks with 100, Chavez fifth in digs with 369, and Moya fifth in blocks with 95.

“I haven’t signed my contract yet,” Sandoval said, “but I will.

Not doubt she will. And scheduling this Wednesday night initial practice points out her eagerness to promptly have the squad in front of her. As for the regular season, it usually starts in late August, but for the new coach, it’s safe to say it starts now.

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