As Cleveland High School begins its 10th year of athletic competition, the school’s first volleyball coach, Ben Wallis, was asked what he remembers from the Storm squad of 2008.
Wallis, now the associate head volleyball coach at New Mexico State University, actually got the program started at Rio Rancho Mid-High in 2008.
“I have such fond memories of my first few years at Cleveland, or should I say Rio Rancho Mid-High,” Wallis told the Observer. “Our first varsity year at CHS was a very fun time for me as a volleyball coach because I got to take a roster loaded with ninth- and 10th-graders and coach some special athletes and special people.
“On that initial team I think I counted six players that went on to play college volleyball (Jordan Bruere, Marissa Calvillo, Sara Hattis, Cassie House, Lindsay Bost and Courtney Lawson) and one that went on the play college basketball (Mariah Gonzales). It was a great experience opening a school and starting a program that is relying heavily on (players, coaches and the community) to create the atmosphere and traditions needed for its success,” he said. “It’s great — and also surreal — to step foot back in CHS gymnasium from time to time and still see things there on the walls, in the gym, and hear the girls still doing/saying things in huddles that we started back in our first season.
“I still keep in great touch with many of those players mentioned and my fondest memory of that initial season was beating Rio Rancho at home in front of a packed house at the Dig Pink game with my best buddy, Toby Manzanares, on the bench to my right with his crazy ’fro hair. We had some great battles against each other in my time there but none more exciting than the first few years when the rivalry was just being born.
“We’re etched in Rio Rancho history in that way and it is fun to know that some of the crazy rivalry antics started way back then with our two programs going head to head. The other fond memories I have are with the girls being so young and now being able to look back and see where all of them have grown to as women,” Wallis added.
“It was such a blessing to have coaches at CHS and I have the greatest memories working with Felicia and Gary Boatman, Brian Smith, Corey Anderson, Shaun Gill, Shane Shallenberger and Larry Chavez.”
Read a preview and see the season schedule for this year’s edition of the Storm in the Aug. 26 edition of the Observer.