The Cimarron-Memorial boys volleyball team won just six matches last season, but that was before Edher Aldaco walked onto a high school court.
The senior setter is playing his first season of high school volleyball. In fact, Aldaco is playing his first year of any team sport at any level this season. But his presence has translated to wins for the Spartans, who are 17-5.
Aldaco joined the team after impressing coaches with his ability to set the ball during an intramural practice before the season. The coaches saw the potential hiding underneath his inexperience.
“I wasn’t even planning on trying out or anything,” Aldaco said. “It was mainly my mom and my sister who told me to come and see what it’s like.”
The experienced players and coaches were surprised from the first time he set the ball at how easily he took to the skill.
“By the second time, more and more people started to notice, by the third and fourth time, everybody started screaming and congratulating me,” Aldaco said.
First-year Cimarron coach Sopheap Khuon has been coaching sports for 13 years and never had seen a player go from never playing a competitive team sport to walking into a practice and performing as well as Aldaco did.
“It’s really difficult,” Khuon said. “For me to see him step it up like that it’s an amazing accomplishment. Especially with the setting position because there are so many skills involved.”
Khuon says the first thing he noticed from Aldaco was his soft hands, a key trait for a setter.
Aldaco has continued working on all parts of his game, including serving, at which he has improved greatly.
“When I first tried to jump serve, it would go under the net or it would just go all over the place,” Aldaco said. “Right now I can control it more, I don’t hit it as often on the net. In the game against Western, there was actually a point where I got eight or nine points in a row from serving.”
The senior suffered from anxiety when he made the team because he was not friends with anyone on the roster. That contributed to rusty play to begin the season, but he was soon just another member of the team.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking actually,” Aldaco said. “But the second or third time I came to practice, somebody told me they were happy to have me here.”
The team is happy to have him in more ways than one. After a less than successful year a season ago, the Spartans are fighting for a playoff spot in the Northwest League.
Khuon said the team’s biggest weakness last season was at setter. The Spartans were still lacking at that position before Aldaco walked into the gym for intramurals.
“To see him come in like that at that position has really motivated everyone else to do better,” Khuon said.
Aldaco leads the team in assists and has emerged as a senior leader.
“I feel like I need to perform at my best level at this point, and I always try to do that against the best that we play against,” Aldaco said.