The Questa Ladycats Volleyball team, coached by Michelle Garcia-Spears, Diane León, and Jennifer Vialpando, traveled to the state playoffs in mid-November, finishing second in district 5-2A with a 14-6 overall record with a 7-3 record in 5-2A.
The Ladycats were the #10 seed pick. They played their first game in the state tournament on Thursday, November 16 at noon against Menaul High School. The girls lost to Menaul in three sets. The tournament was a double elimination tournament, giving the girls the opportunity to play a second game against Estancia. The girls went on to lose in three sets, eliminating them from the state tournament.
Coach Michelle Garcia-Spears says she is proud of the team̕s work through the season. “This was my first time back, after taking a six-year break from coaching. Overall I am so proud of the girls and how resilient they were this season. There was adversity they had to overcome, and they did it by focusing on how they responded to the adversity,” she says.
The Ladycats last state tournament qualification was in 2017, the last time Michelle coached. When asked what the secret to their success was, she says, “It was great to be back and to work with the team. We set goals early in the year and the goal was to focus on the positive and become the best possible versions of ourselves we could be.”
Michelle attributes much of the team’s success this year to assistant coaches Diane León and Jennifer Vialpando. “They can see things I may miss and vice versa. We work as a true team with the goal of helping the girls be the best athletes they can be.”
Looking at next season, Michelle says she is excited and hopeful to continue coaching the girls’ volleyball team. “We have a young team, and we only have one senior graduating this year. I see so much potential with our girls, not only within our current team, but with the upcoming athletes as well.”
Notably, Michelle’s great-niece, Ashlynn Rael, and her cousin, Alyana León (Diane León’s daughter), play on the team. When asked if the family dynamic ever blurs lines or makes coaching difficult, she is quick to respond, “No. The girls were my students when I was teaching, and I am their coach when they are on the team. I coached my daughter Arianna and there are never any special privileges; they are treated like any other athlete, and they never expect special treatment either.”
Following the state tournament, assistant coach Diane León reflected on her coaching career on social media, sharing a drawing her daughter Alyana drew in 2012, when Diane traveled to Albuquerque for the state tournament for the first time. The image, dated 11-14-2012, says “I miss my mom.”
Fast-forward 11 years, and Alyana is now playing on the varsity volleyball team, having experienced her first state tournament with the team. Reflecting on her youth, seeing her mom coach volleyball, Alyana says, “As we left for the weekend, I thought about how I got to this point and the answer is: my mom. She has taught me almost everything I know, both about life in general and volleyball. She has spent money for volleyball camps, motivated me with words of encouragement, and her love and support. I am so incredibly grateful for her and for the love she has instilled in me for the sport.”
Although the team didn’t bring home a state championship, Michelle is looking to the future with hope and pride. “Even though the outcome wasn’t what we hoped for, the girls know what they have to work on and improve for next year.”
Michelle went on to share her gratitude with the Questa community for their continued support of the Questa Ladycats.