Congrats to the Gadsden Panthers who finally brought home the state championship in volleyball, beating some damn good teams along the way. While their success is new to many in the area (that should be read as anyone outside the Gadsden/volleyball community), the Panther program under head coach Al Rosen, has quietly been gaining momentum.
Since Rosen took over in 2006, Gadsden has made appearances in the tournament every year. These trips include:
- 2006: defeating Sandia, losing to Manzano in the second round
- 2007: losing to Cruces after 1st round bye
- 2008: losing to Clovis after 1st round bye
- 2009: defeating Cibola after 1st round bye, losing to eventual champ Rio Rancho in the semi
On a side note, who could forget the players on the old squads? Some of my favorites were Liz Castellanos, Abigail Ortiz, Lily Carillo and Joanna Morales. I threw some pictures of them for good measure.
Much like the progressions of the squads in years past, Gadsden’s improvements this season were marked by new victories and achievements throughout the season; winning the Sweet 16, sweeping their district rivals, winning the regular season and district tournament championship, getting the Rio Rancho monkey off their backs, and finally the state championship.
To make significant improvements in volleyball a year-round commitment is required: this means club volleyball. Often the high fees make the club option prohibitively expensive for many families in the area. This makes the success of the program even more significant, with the majority of the girls getting only the prep season to play. I think this speaks to the quality of coaching and dedication of the players involved.
Way to go Panthers!