The La Cueva High School volleyball team beat rival Eldorado in four sets Tuesday night to improve its record this season to 18-0. But Tuesday night at La Cueva was about much more than volleyball.
This night was for Fred Ader, a beloved figure in the volleyball community who was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a terminal degenerative disease of the nervous system that affects muscles and the body’s ability to function. Ader, who has been playing, coaching or officiating volleyball for nearly 30 years, has lost the use of his left arm and hand already because of the disease.
La Cueva and Eldorado teamed up for Tuesday’s “Wear Pink or Red for Fred” game, which featured a bake sale, a raffle for prize baskets and a 50/50 fundraiser with all proceeds going to Ader to help in his fight against ALS.
“It’s special, so special,” Ader said of Tuesday’s event.
Ader was born in Hawaii and retired in Albuquerque after a lengthy career in the Air Force. He is a father and a grandfather. Along with his wife Patty, Ader has ran Albuquerque Rebels Volleyball Club for 22 years. ARVC has grown into a juggernaut of a club with more 30 teams and over 60 coaches. They recently opened a new 21,000-square-foot, five-court facility. ARVC has sent more than 200 players to play in college.
“I’m proud to really contribute to the whole volleyball community,” Ader said. “When I first started, Albuquerque volleyball was just plainly a high school sport YMCA. Now we’ve just grown into one of the top sports like here in the state.”
La Cueva has consistently boasted one of the top prep teams in the state. The Bears have won 30 matches in a row, including last year’s state championship. Head coach Steve Archibeque has led the Bears to state titles in three of the last four seasons and four state crowns since 2015. Many of Archibeque’s players also played at ARVC for Ader.
“He’s developed so many players with the club, not only as a coach but as a facilitator for the club,” Archibeque said. “We’ve had probably a good 200 or 300 girls who have gone through ARVC come through our program, whether they went to other clubs or not, and he’s been a catalyst to a lot of our success here at La Cueva.”
La Cueva beat Eldorado 25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 25-23 Tuesday, dropping just its eighth set all season. Several Bears players got to show Ader what they’ve learned at ARVC in the match. Ader said he’s more impressed by who they are in life than what they do on the court.
“I’m very proud to watch these girls play,” Ader said. “For these girls, it’s not just a sport that they play, but they start becoming really good people. You know what’s gonna get closer and hopefully that will carry this character throughout their lives.”
As the volleyball community rallied in support of Ader at La Cueva, Ader watched the match with a smile and surrounded by loved ones with his impact and legacy on volleyball in the state was on full display.
“I try not to think about that because if you think of that you’re only thinking about yourself,” Ader said. “In New Mexico, the sport is growing. I’ve been able to give players the tools and show them the right way and a path. It might not be volleyball; it could be life skills.”