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Multi-sport teammates for Cibola in midst of final volleyball season together
Seniors Bethany Olea, Hannah Lackey, Alexis Evans and Grecia Villa sat at a round table in the Cibola lunch room.
They laughed and joked about stories that have happened on and off the volleyball court and softball field during their four years together — many of which they were too embarrassed to go into much detail. During volleyball season, they talk about volleyball. During softball season, the discussion is softball.
How often does this reminiscing happen?
“All the time,” they all said at once.
Olea and Villa balance volleyball in the fall with softball pretty much all year. Lackey and Evans, though, also participate in basketball during the winter. Despite spending all summer playing for their traveling softball teams — Olea, Villa and Evans all play for Arsenal, while Lackey plays for the Desert Diamonds — when fall comes along, they know when to mentally trade in the cleats and mitt for sneakers and knee pads.
“After four years, you get to know it's volleyball season, so you focus on that,” Olea said.
“We're athletes, so it's not too hard for us to transition, especially after doing this for four years,” Villa said.
All of them consider themselves softball players who play other sports — evident in the fact that the Raider softball team made the quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Red Mountain and to No. 3 Xavier in the losers' bracket. Luckily for the Raiders volleyball team, which is 4-5 in Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Power Point games entering tonight's game against Kofa at 6 p.m. at home, the talents of the four softball players can transfer to the volleyball court.
“They're all good athletes in that they know how to play and how to compete,” first-year Cibola volleyball coach Juliann Umphress said. “Serving, because the throw of softball, it's the same motion so it's not an unfamiliar ground.”
Umphress notices how the positions the girls have played in softball can be shown from what they do on the court. Olea is a do-everything shortstop for the Raiders and led the team last year in batting average, runs scored and walks.
“She's just a great athlete. Every time she's on the court she gives it her all,” Umphress said. “It doesn't matter where I put her on the court, she never questions it. She just goes and does well.”
Lackey, the catcher whose strong arm keeps would-be base stealers in check, is “one of my strongest servers, as far as power,” Umphress said.
Villa, the speedy second baseman with a 96 percent fielding percentage uses that ability to get to the right spot as the Raiders' libero. Evans, the slugging first baseman who is the leading returner in home runs, just “knows how to go out and get things done,” Umphress said.
Having played varsity volleyball together since last season — Olea was on the team as a sophomore — they understand this is their senior season. It's their last ride together. It's the final time they'll play volleyball and softball together.
“It's hard not to think about it,” Villa said. “Because you know it's going to be a big journey.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson