Socorro’s senior volleyball players are cruising through summer practice with a new attitude. Back from left, Kayana
Acosta, Jaylin Gonzales, Kaedyn Gonzalez, Jayden Kayser, Kaylee Hall, Tamra Fowler. Front from left, Lila Azar and Jeanette
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

There is new pep in the step of Socorro volleyball players just two weeks into the Lady Warriors’ summer practice schedule.

“I am very excited about the numbers we have out. I think almost all the older girls are here, and I’m happy because they are very positive,” head coach Jaden Jones said. “My kids have T-ball, and there are some days when it’s 6:15, and the girls want to keep going and keep working to the last minute. I’m very happy about it.”

Jones served as an assistant coach last year during a season where the wheels fell off Socorro volleyball, and the Lady Warriors went 2-18 overall and didn’t record a district win. The falloff was huge, considering Socorro won the previous District 3 3A titles with undefeated league slates.

One of Socorro’s problems last season was the inability to shake off mistakes and stay positive, which Jones has focused on from the beginning of this year. She’s expecting her eight seniors to step up and assume leadership roles.

It was all hard work and smiles for Kayana Acosta at summer volleyball practice last week.

“I expect leadership from all of them. I expect them to lead by example, to work hard, and to come here every day ready to be positive and put the work in,” Jones said.

New Mexico Military Institute graduate Marysa Ocampo, who conducted a two-day summer camp for Socorro volleyball players, is on hand to help. Carmen Marquez has also been supporting and has turned in an application to become Jones’ assistant.

“They haven’t done interviews yet, but Carmen said she’d come and help as long as she could,” Jones said.

If Marquez is hired, it will also be a special time as her daughter Jayden Kayser is a senior.

“I can’t wait to see what this team can do under coach Jone’s leadership. She has a great relationship with the team, and I think her stepping on to the court as head coach is going to be a literal game changer. There’s also a shift in your players when you step into the senior role and the level of hard work changes. It’s all very exciting and I hope to officially be a part of the team soon,” Marquez said.

Does Marquez like what she sees so far?

“I’m excited to see what this season brings. There’s just such a huge difference on the court already and it looks like the girls are just excited to play. This summer, we want the team to have fun and learn as well as start creating those good habits now, so it carries over throughout the season. It’s been awesome to see their support for each other.”

Sara Montgomery keeps her gaze on the volleyball as she works on her passing skills.

Socorro’s success this upcoming season will depend on its seniors, and those Lady Warriors are stepping up and beginning to assume the roles they will play. Who will start, and who will come into matches as game-changers?

It’s easy to give lip service and say all the right things, but when one watches the Lady Warriors in their Monday-Friday practices, they quickly become aware Socorro is fully dedicated this year. The gym is hot as the girls go over fundamentals in endless digging drills.

A short break follows as the players hydrate themselves, and then it is on to attack. The intensity rises a little with no fooling around, and there’s plenty of encouragement and smiles

“We are all working at being more positive and bringing everyone up and making sure they are positive as well,” Jaylin Gonzales said. “We are working as a team this year, and as seniors, we are setting the right examples for the younger players.”

Tamra Fowler echoed those thoughts. “We are playing as a team,” she said.

“We’re out here as seniors knowing we have a responsibility to lead the younger players,” Kaedyn Gonzalez said.

There’s also a sense that this is the last dance.

“We want to play as a team and have a winning year. We are seniors this season,” Kayana Acosta said

Being on the same page will be important for a team looking to make a huge turnaround, and in the back of everyone’s minds is the possibility of making the state volleyball tournament later this year. Still, the focus is on teamwork and doing their best.

“Our goal as a team this year is to be the best we can and not fall out like last year. We need to motivate each other and keep hyped up. We have new coaches, and coach Ocampo is here to show us new tricks, and I think that is good for us,” Lila Azar said.

For Kaylee Hall and Jayden Kayser, working out earlier in the summer means getting into the best condition for the season.

“I like that we are practicing now and not two weeks before the season starts. We are going to be in better condition and shape for the season, Hall said.

Kayser had the same sentiments.

“It’s great we are getting in the extra hours of practice this year, so we’re not running behind and chasing our tails like we were last year. It’s much more organized, so I appreciate it,” Kayser said.

All the Lady Warriors’ hard work isn’t just on the volleyball court, with senior Jeanette Otero proving she’s tops in the classroom.

“I’m going to graduate in December and work toward getting a degree in social work,” Otero said.