Former Escalante coach leads all-stars before move to Arizona
A decorated 20-2 season in 2018 for the Escalante High School volleyball team had its final touches polished up at the New Mexico High School Coaches Association’s 2019 All-Star series this past weekend.
Four Lady Lobos in all made the cut for the Small-School Northeast, as well as their head coach. Hailey Whitaker, Sydney DeYapp, Aubrie Hinds, Elyssa Baca and Henry Gettler all reunited on the court one last time to be a part of the series at Albuquerque’s Valley High School June 7-8.
Gettler said the experience was nothing but positive, and that he received overwhelming support from the parents and players of not just his Escalante girls but from all the different players and parents he was able to work with for the first time.
“For a lot of the girls, this is their last experience playing volleyball, so it’s all positive, that’s for sure,” Gettler said. “I’m very happy for the girls and I thought we were very fortunate to get four girls in there. I think parents should be very thankful and appreciate that. I hope they do.”
Despite the accomplishments of the season and the four all-star selections, Escalante was not pleased enough to rehire Gettler for the head coaching position in 2019. He was also fired as the boys basketball head coach. Gettler guided the Lobos to a 20-10 record and state quarterfinal appearance on the basketball court, but he will be replaced by Isaac Royston, who coached the Lady Lobo girls basketball team this past season. The girls finished with a 9-17 record.
Gettler will say goodbye to the state of New Mexico after teaching and coaching for 23-and-a-half years in the Land of Enchantment. His next stop will be at River Valley High School in Mohave Valley, Ariz., where he will be the head coach for the boys basketball team, girls sand volleyball team and assistant coach for the golf team.
“That’ll be my next venture in life,” Gettler said. “You gotta just keep going forward. When one door closes in life, seven more doors open. I’ve never been one to sit back and feel sorry for myself; you got to move on. However, this was a good way to close out coaching in New Mexico, as long as I have (been here).”
The now former Lady Lobos coach and his four players began their all-star weekend on June 7, taking on the Southeast squad, who advanced to June 8’s championship match after winning 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19).
After splitting the first two sets, the Southeast earned the crucial victory in the third game to seize the lead, plus the momentum. After falling behind 5-1 at the start of the set, that momentum resurfaced and it would carry over to the fourth game, where they also trailed 13-9 after a small run from the Northeast. The Southeast answered that deficit with a 9-2 run after a timeout to grab a 18-15 lead, one they would not surrender after the set and match was ended by a tip from the Southeast’s Maddy Rice from Tatum High School.
After the defeat, DeYapp said the toughest part about the series was the turnaround from the first of two practices (June 6) to the actual game.
“We hadn’t picked up a volleyball since November,” she said with a laugh. “To get back out there after two days of practice with new girls was tough. A lot of the game came down to the little things and little mistakes. We all know how to play good volleyball and we’re all all-stars.”
Gettler said small mistakes are always made in the game of volleyball, despite how much practice time there is to prepare.
“Anytime you get the north versus the south, it’s good versus good,” he said. “You could have two weeks of practice, and those mistakes will still happen. The hardest part was making sure we got every girl in. It was so hard, and coach Sarah (Hurd, 2018 Escalante graduate and former player) did a really good job at watching the rotation and making sure every girl got in every single game.”
With so much going on in such little time, what smoothed things over a bit for Whitaker was the fact that she was with surrounded by so many of her own.
“It was nice because a lot of the other players would say (and be surprised), ‘Oh, all four of you are from Escalante?’” Whitaker said. “That felt good and having Getti as the coach helped and he instilled confidence in all four of us today. Knowing he’s our coach, we know what he wants and we told each other, ‘We could do this,’ and that kind of thing.”
The Northeast ended on a positive note the next day on June 8, winning the third-place game 3-1 over the Small-School Northwest.
“It was a good win for those girls and those girls were exhausted,” Gettler said. “It was sure a long weekend for them and some of the girls, it was their second week in a row in Albuquerque playing games (basketball) for the North-South. So, I am sure they’re happy to be home.”
The second of four games of the first day featured two Dulce High School products, who were already familiar with the all-star series themselves, like Gettler had mentioned. Returning one week later after participating in the basketball portion was Lady Hawks Jaelynn Reval and Brooke Vigil.
Once again, they represented the Northwest, which marked the last stop for Reval before she continues her career next season at Lamar Community College. The vicious outside hitter finished her senior season with 228 kills, 70 aces, 54 assists and 28 blocks, while leading Dulce to the state championship game in Class 2A.
Like the Northeast, the Northwest also dropped their opening game, losing to the Southwest by a score of 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 30-28, 25-21).
Passing and setting were not always executed with pure excellence, despite the all-star caliber of all the players. Talking and communication wasn’t always perfect, and that led to little to few chances for Reval to unleash her powerful swing. However, that would change in the third set of the match.
Reval’s first clean look of the entire match put the Northwest ahead 9-7 at the time in the third set, which excited the coupe dozen Dulce supporters who made the trip. Reval kept them cheering loudly, as she recorded the next two kills — finished off with a crafty line shot before going up big for a solo block to put the Northwest up 12-7 after scoring four consecutive points.
The set was back-and-forth from that point forward, and after the Southwest survived for the 30-28 win, they quickly went ahead 9-2 at the start of the fourth set. They pushed the lead to double digits, and although the Northwest battled all the way back to within 22-21, the energy they exerted during the turnaround proved to be too much to overcome. The Southwest scored the next four points to end the match, and Mesilla Valley’s Makaela Velarde’s off-speed attack put the nail in the coffin.