Española's Fell, Pojoaque's Rodriguez team up for all-star team
All Española Valley High School’s Chloe Fell could say about the Large-School Northeast volleyball team was exactly that, they were quite large.
Large enough that the powerful Lady Sundevil swinger was forced to predominantly play in the back row during the 2019 New Mexico High School Coaches Association’s All-Star series, as opposed to her normal spot as an outside hitter along the front row, where she put down 216 kills and helped Española reach the Class 4A state quarterfinals this past season.
Northeast head coach Joanne Romero — a 26-year veteran in coaching and NMHSCA Hall of Honor Inductee — and her staff of Dominick Romero and Andrea Montaño’s plan they had in place to set the lineup they way they did worked, and it resulted in the Northeast winning the series championship in a comeback effort over the Northwest, winning 3-2 (23-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-17, 15-13) June 8 at Albuquerque’s Valley High School.
The Northeast started the series a day earlier on June 7 with a clean sweep of the Large-School Southeast, also at Valley. That’s when Fell realized why she was placed where she was in the lineup, and she had no problem with that.
“We’re all competitive and we have some big people up there,” Fell said. “I’m more comfortable in the back row right now. Honestly, I think if I was in the front, I’d just be getting blocked out there. Those girls are tall and it’s tough to get over the block, so I’m happy where I am.”
Some of those players who did make an impact at net for the Northeast was Robertson High School’s Alianza Darley and Jazmin Jenkins, Los Alamos High School’s Elodie Thelliez and St. Michael’s Mikayla Bohlman. Doing the dirty work at the libero spot was a name that Fell was familiar with after playing against her twice this past season. That duty belonged to Pojoaque Valley High School’s Alyssa Rodriguez.
“She’s the best passer on her team,” Fell said about Rodriguez. “Anytime in this when you can play with someone from your district, it only helps.”
Rodriguez just happened to be in the limelight when the Northeast made their biggest runs of the opening match against the Southeast. The team rallied for three big runs with Rodriguez serving, and none was bigger and more deflating to the Southeast than the 11-0 run they succumbed to in the second set.
Rodriguez reentered the game from the bench with her team leading 9-6 in the set, and her serving helped expand the margin to 20-6, putting a huge stranglehold on the Southeast before they finally cracked the scoreboard again. Rodriguez recorded three aces during the run, and it was a little to her surprise.
“That was a surprise to me because I haven’t played in a while,” Rodriguez said with a smirk on her face. “I used my serving to my advantage and it was good tonight.”
Fell reentered the game after the scoring run ended, and she recorded an ace of her own to make the score 23-7, before the final two points of the set were recorded.
The 2-0 set hole the Southeast fell into proved to be a killer, as the Northeast continued right along with their strong play in the third set. They put doubt in the Southeast early by starting on a 4-0 run and they controlled the set throughout its entirety. They built their lead to 10-5, then to 11 points at 17-6 before the 25-8 final.
“You think it would have been hard to build that chemistry together,” Rodriguez said. “After the two practices we developed more together and when we got out there, we were just pumped to play.”
With their high school athletic careers finally closed, now Fell can enjoy her summer before attending Eastern New Mexico University next fall to study education, and Rodriguez will attend New Mexico State University on the Hadley academic scholarship to study chemistry.