VOLLEYBALL: Historic playoff run ends in Farmersville

Farmersville volleyball ends its historic season after a playoff run to the semifinals of the Central Section championships

FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville volleyball made history in the 2022 season, losing only three games and winning league for the first time in school history before being eliminated during the semifinals of the Central Section Championships

The Farmersville volleyball team ended their best season in history in the Division V semifinals of the Central Section championships. They were knocked out after being swept by Minarets high school, but that doesn’t detract from their success as a volleyball team. The 2022 Aztecs won league for the first time in school history after going undefeated in league play and only losing 2 games out of 33.

“To be able to go through the regular season without loss really, and then our only two losses were in tournaments, I think that says something about the character of the team and how strong that they were,” head coach David Light said.

Light wasn’t sure how the season was going to go when practices started over the summer. According to him, “you never know how a team is going to gel,” but the team turned out to have special chemistry. They were close on and off the court, supporting each other throughout the season.

“We’ve become like sisters on the court,” senior defensive specialist Ariana Rodriguez said after the Aztecs swept Woodlake in October.

That friendship and sisterhood translated to power on the court. Many players returned from the previous year, but the addition of freshmen Jazmaine Stewart and Aliyah Talamantez added firepower to the starting lineup.

“I knew at the beginning of the year that we were going to have a good year,” Light said.

Offensively, the team’s anchor is setter Jolina Castaneda, a junior, but a leader for the team. Coming from a volleyball family, she contributed passion for the game and knowledge of volleyball and she was chosen as one of the team’s captains. Between Castaneda, Stewart and junior Rachel Rojas, the Aztecs’ front row was nearly unstoppable.

In the back row, Talamantez and Rodriguez traded off wearing the libero jersey. While Rodriguez brought experience, Talamantez brought raw talent and Rodriguez was essential in helping shape Talamantez as a defensive player. Junior Estrella Valencia was an outside hitter last year, but this year, Light asked her to play a more defensive role and she took on the challenge.

“It’s not easy to go from going all the way around [the court] to being a concentrated defensive specialist,” Light said. “But she just stepped up and played phenomenal defense all year long.”

That combination of strong defense and powerful offense meant the Aztecs were a force to be reckoned with for other teams. They played 23 non-league games, including tournament games, before league play began, practicing and working together against schools in Fresno and Bakersfield as well as other Tulare County schools before league began. When they went undefeated in league, it was the first time a Farmersville volleyball team had ever won their league.

The community definitely came together behind them. A loud student section became a permanent fixture at home games. The football team, soccer team and other athletes showed up to lend support to the volleyball team. They sat on the visiting side of the court and brought the noise to the gym, probably making it even more difficult for teams visiting to face the powerhouse Farmersville became.

Along with students, the team got support from the school, with the athletic director, principal and assistant principal attending games as much as they could. New Farmersville Superintendent Sergio Chavez even showed up to games to congratulate and support the athletes as they went into playoffs.

“That just goes to show how the whole community just really had our back,” Light said. “Our parents went above and beyond and just really made this such a special year.”

The Aztecs are only losing three seniors, which will be a tough loss for them. But many of their strong players are underclassmen, who will return next season after months of playing club volleyball with even more experience. In 2023, they will be chasing the Central Section championship.

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