Last season was an emotional one for the Volcano Vista High School girls basketball team.
There were tears of joy after the team capped an undefeated season with a win in the state championship game in March. There were also tears of mourning for the late Mike Brown, a legendary basketball coach known as “Papa” who was a key contributor to and supporter of the program. Brown passed away in 2021, and the team honored him throughout the past two seasons.
Now a new season is here, and while the team will continue to honor Brown, it’ll be a vastly different team than the one that recorded its second straight championship last year.
Volcano Vista, which has won 42 straight games, lost three senior starters in Kennedy Brown, Jaelyn Bates and Natalia Chavez.
“We’re very excited to get going; they’re really focused,” Volcano Vista head coach Lisa Villareal said. “They really can be the first team to win back to back to back. That’s what they’re shooting for. There’s a lot of work to be done, but they’re really focusing on really understanding the program a lot more as far as being the ones in charge right now. They kind of took a backseat to Natalia and Kennedy and those girls, but it’s their turn. Like I said, they’re excited.”
All three former starters are now at the University of New Mexico, with Brown playing soccer for the Lobos and Bates and Chavez on the hoops team.
But the Hawks aren’t lacking for talent.
“We have a great bunch of girls coming back,” Villareal said. “I have seven returning from last year’s squad. And you know, it’s their turn, they’re ready. We’ve been working now that basketball season became official this week. So now we’re getting into the grind every day.”
Villareal expects Taejuan Hill, who has never lost a game in high school, Mari Manzanares and Mila Espinoza to break out this season.
“There’s a lot of pressure on (Hill), I’m sure, as far as taking her win streak,” Villareal said. “Because to be honest, she hasn’t lost a game in high school yet. She does have a good crew around her as far as all the guards, and she has some more senior leadership with Mari Manzanares, who has been a four-year varsity player. So between those two, taking the brunt of the pressure, as well as our up-and-coming point guard, Mila Espinoza, it’s definitely going to be a fun group to watch. They have a lot of energy; they put out a lot of effort. That’s all we can ask for at this point.”
The chase for a third straight trophy begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Tohatchi.
Note: The basketball teams made history last year as both the boys and girls went undefeated on their way to a state crown, making Volcano Vista the first school in New Mexico to achieve that feat. Here’s how the boys team looks this season.
The Volcano Vista girls team won a state title in March to cap an undefeated season.