All three Socorro County varsity volleyball teams are starting the 2023 season with a new head coach who is beginning to develop their programs’ cultures.
In Socorro, former assistant coach Jaden Jones takes over the Lady Warriors program. Micheon Shellhorn left her position at Reserve to lead Magdalena’s Steers, and Billson Herrera has picked up duties at Alamo Navajo.
Jones hesitated about applying for Socorro’s head job and cited a need for more experience. Still, she’s exactly what the Lady Warriors need because she’s a Socorro High School graduate and former player.
Jones has instilled a new positive attitude in her players and has demanded the Lady Warriors develop a mindset of support. It’s been a journey of learning where she has helped players recognize you can use mistakes as opportunities to improve.
Perhaps most important is that Jones is seeking accountability from her “nine” seniors to set examples and be leaders.
Jaylin Gonzales, Tamra Fowler, Kayana Acosta, Davaeh Murrietta, Lila Azar, Kaedyn Gonzalez, Jeanette Otero, Marissa Scates and Jayden Kayser have all stepped up — Otero especially so because she’s graduating a year early. El Defensor Chieftain will have more on that later.
Shellhorn knows she’s in an enviable position in Magdalena because she’s inherited a solid team and thriving program with a load of players who would like to make the varsity for the Steers.
The Steers lined up 15 varsity players on their media day, seven of them are seniors, and everyone is expected to contribute. Shellhorn will have some exciting matches this season, including playing against her former team (Reserve), where she won last year’s district title.
Winning another league title is on the back burner now for Shellhorn as she wants to develop her team and for athletes to learn their roles in her system. Returning players to watch include Kambree Montya, Jorianne Mirabal, Kaydence Autry, Monique Baca, Hanna Guerro and Aliza Apache.
Magdalena has the talent to win games, and being bigger, faster, and stronger is going to help propel the Steers along. The next step for Magdalena is winning a state tournament game after bowing out in the first round last year.
The Steers roster includes Aliza Apache, Nikole Torre, Summer Anderson, Winona Apachito, Elia Cleveland, Oliviah Clark, Jorianne Mirabal, Lilliana Vega, Hanna Guerro, Kaydence Latasa-Autrey, Kambree Montoya, Monique Baca, Vanessa Martinez, Anissa Muno-Paez, and Gianna Apachito.
Herrera taking over Alamo Navajo for Danielle Gordon is easily the most foreboding challenge for a coach after the Lady Cougars’ final-four finish last season.
Following Gordon’s two-year run has to be intimidating with a 16-2 District 3-1A record, two league crowns and Alamo’s deepest-ever run in the state tournament.
Herrera isn’t as focused on wins as he is on ensuring his athletes have a local connection (he’s an Alamo graduate) and that the volleyball program continues to develop and attract more players.
Herrera will have his work cut out for him with the loss of four senior starters, but two solid playmakers (Sapphira Sandoval and Claire Apachito) give him a strong base to build around.
Like Jones in Socorro, Herrera brings the school pride and spirit that only alums can.