Central VB team sweeps former coach

Some quick hugs were exchanged during introductions as the Central High School volleyball players said hello to their former coach.

Once Thursday’s nonleague volleyball match began, though, the Warriors forgot that Beth Nelson was on the other bench and went about their business in a 25-15, 25-10, 25-20 victory over Delta.

“A little strange, but we had that mind-set that we were going to beat them,” senior middle hitter Madi Marston said. “Even though we love her so much, we want to show her what she’s missing out on. I love my coach now, too.”

Nelson resigned last school year, citing a desire to move to a smaller town to raise her family. She and her family have made that move and are settled in. Her youngest daughter has started kindergarten and has 12 new “big sisters.”

Now Nelson is working to start the Panthers on the same path she took the Warriors.

“I’m really happy with where we’re going,” Nelson said. “I’m really happy with the direction our program’s going.”

She’s also happy to see her former team playing well.

“I was really proud of how they played,” she said. “They looked good. They’re having a good season this year, so I definitely wish them the best. I want them to succeed and be successful.

“I really think for Delta, we’re taking the right steps and getting our program where it needs to be. I love it; I’ve got a good group of kids.”

During the junior varsity match, Nelson stood against the west wall at Central watching the younger players, but also greeting Central parents and staff members.

Once the varsity match began, Central’s size and experience took over.

With 6-foot outside hitter Taylor Head recording 18 kills and Marston six more, the Warriors (5-4, 1-1 Southwestern League) had little trouble in the first two games. Rayleigh Norton, who had 30 assists, served an ace on game point for a 2-0 lead in the match, and then Delta regrouped and led 15-14 in Game 3.

Head, though, recorded a kill just inside the back line, then Norton served back-to-back aces before Head slammed home another kill for an 18-15 advantage, and the Warriors took over from there.

Central’s size advantage was apparent, with Head, a former middle who moved to outside hitter this season, leading the offense and 6-1 junior middle Sara Stahly (three blocks) and Marston (two blocks) handling the middle of the defense, the Panthers didn’t have much room to hit.

Marston, listed at 5-8, readily admitted she’s not that tall.

“I take my height and I like to intimidate them,” she said. “They underestimate me sometimes. I like to take my 5-6 and three-quarters ... I take that and I work with it.”

Central coach Jennifer Armendariz, who was one of Nelson’s assistants with the Warriors, likes how her team has adapted to her coaching style and emphasis on defense. The Warriors defended Delta’s block well, making sure someone was backing up whoever was on the attack, just in case the ball came right back.

“That’s something we’ve focused on really hard from Day 1 is team and supporting each other and backing each other up, moving as a unit,” she said. “That’s why it looks like we’re covering so well, because we’re moving as a unit.”

Now comes the heart of the SWL season, starting tonight for the Warriors, who host Durango, with Montezuma-Cortez on Saturday. Armendariz likes the depth she has, and the Warriors have one thing on their minds now:

“SWL champs all the way,” Marston said. “That’s our mind-set every single game we play, every practice, SWL champs.”


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