The last time the Volcano Vista girls basketball team lost a game, the pandemic was in its infancy.
Since dropping the 2020 state championship game to Hobbs in the Pit on March 14, Volcano Vista has reeled off 38 straight wins.
The Hawks went 13-0 in a COVID-shortened 2021 season, capped by a miraculous half-court buzzer-beating shot by Natalia Chavez that won the blue trophy in overtime and made national news. The 64-23 win over Rio Rancho in the District 1-5A title game on March 26 moved the Hawks to 25-0 this year and secured the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A state tournament.
“Anybody that’s been coming to watch our games just knows that our signatures are to run and gun and score transition points,” Volcano Vista head coach Lisa Villareal said. “We like to get a lot of offense off of our defense. We have a veteran team that is defending state champs, and we just have tradition here at Volcano Vista.”
The Hawks have a veteran squad led by seniors Chavez, Jaelyn Bates and Kennedy Brown.
“These girls are a special bunch,” Villareal said. “They’re just scoring machines. They’re battle-tested, and that’s what we hope to ride the rest of the year.”
Those battles have helped prepare the Hawks for being a target for every team they played this year.
“We have to talk about being undefeated, being the No. 1 seed, being defending state champs,” Villareal said. “There’s pressure, so we talk about it. Of course the pressure is going to be there, and it’s going to continue to be there, but the girls play well under pressure.”
Villareal is facing some pressure too as she vies for her fifth state championship at Volcano Vista and continues to build what has become a hoops dynasty on the West Side. Another state crown would give Villareal more titles than any female girls prep basketball coach in the history of New Mexico.
“It would mean everything,” Villareal said. “We as coaches hope to make a run for it every season, if possible. We’ve just been blessed here at Volcano Vista. It’s tradition now, what is expected of them.”
Villareal and the Hawks have an even bigger reason to give it all they have for a state title this year: the late Mike Brown. Brown, a legendary coach in New Mexico, passed away on June 30 of last year after a battle with multiple system atrophy (MSA).
Brown, affectionately referred to as “Papa” around Volcano Vista, was a beloved figure around the school. His son Greg coaches the boys team and his granddaughter Kennedy is a star on the girls team.
“We’re playing for Papa this year,” Villareal said. “We dedicated our season to coach Mike Brown, so it fits in with our mission. Let’s see if we can get it done.”
Top-seeded Volcano Vista begins its pursuit of another state championship Friday night at home against No. 16 Santa Fe at 7.