The Lobos volleyball squad prepare to return the ball in their home game with San Manuel. The Lobos have defeated San Manuel twice this season. Photo by Dave Lumia

Coach Stephanie Padilla saw everything she needed to see from her Patagonia High School volleyball team in its 3-1 victory over Valley Union on Sept. 5 to know this team is capable of big things. 

Valley Union had already recorded victories over 2A schools Tombstone and Morenci and was undefeated on the season before running into a determined Lobos team at the Patagonia gym. 

“[The Lobos] came out and they attacked,” Padilla said. “You could see they really wanted to win. I want to see them go in with that attitude every single game. We’ve got to have the mentality of we’ve got to attack every team; when you walk off that court, [be able to say] there was nothing else I could do. 

“We’ve got to get them to believe they can do it, because we believe they can do it. They’re a great group of girls.” 

Padilla is still working to instill the message of consistency of effort. She needs only to point to last year’s heartbreaking finish to hammer the message home. 

Patagonia started last season by losing its first six matches. They caught fire as the season went on, but their 7-9 record left them in poor shape in the Class 1A rankings, meaning they needed to win the Super Regional Tournament to advance to the state tourney. They took care of business in their first two matches but were unable to upset St. David in the Super Regional final. 

Lesson: Play more consistently from the start of the season, achieve a higher ranking and a larger margin of error come the postseason. 

The Lobos are making progress. Their record stood at 7-3 through their first 10 matches, with wins over San Manuel (twice), Bisbee, San Simon, Valley Union, Ray and Lourdes Catholic, and they ranked 16th among 44 schools in Class 1A, despite an enrollment that ranks 36th. 

Padilla credits seniors Jenny Vasquez, Janelle Valenzuela and Heaven Day with setting the tone. Versatile freshman Amaya Somoza, a sparkplug who is often the smallest player on the floor, has been a key addition to the lineup, and sophomores Brianna Majalca, Emma Lewton and Alexis Fimbrez have also played prominent roles. 

“Our seniors are leading the way,” Padilla said. “They have great attitudes. That makes a huge difference for our team dynamic. 

“What makes this year’s team more talented than last year is their attitude. They want to learn. They want to work hard.

“I told them from the start, there’s going to be a lot of competition for everybody, and everybody needs to work hard. And I think that is one reason why everybody’s working hard in practice. They all have one goal: to make the state playoffs.”