Darrell Chenault has worn many different hats during his lifetime.
Now in his 15th year as girls volleyball coach at Elida High
- his alma mater - Chenault began working in the oil fields right out of high school. He has coached Little League baseball and was a state trooper for 10 years, the last five in Elida. He also attended college for the first time at age 35 to get his teaching degree and this year he teaches history, health and physical education in addition to serving as the Elida fire chief and a member of the police force.
Elida has a population of about 200 and is located in the southeastern part of New Mexico. The high school has 41 students in grades 9-12 and 31 are girls. With just 10 boys in the high school, they have to join with nearby Dora to form co-op teams in football, basketball and baseball.
No information was available on how hard it is to find a boyfriend.
Though the Tigers did win state volleyball titles in 1986 and 1990, they really have prospered under Chenault, who has posted a 14-year record of 246-75 and captured the last five small-school (now Class A) state championships in a row. During those five years they have gone 70-0 against schools their size. The Tigers have reached the state tourney nine times and have just one losing season during his tenure.
Chanault credits "the love of the game" for his school's great success. "It's been brought down to us as a tradition. We've had a group of kids over the last several years that maybe their parents played it."
Today's tradition probably was kickstarted by the 1986 team that notched the school's first state title. On that team were Leslie Creighton, the lone senior, and her future sister-in-law, Joreta Creighton, an eighth-grader, who later also was a member of the 1990 champions.
Leslie recalled, "We tried to start building a tradition in the mid 1980s. Once we got the tradition going, it carried on year after year. It (the first title) was huge for us. We were in a really tough district. The teams playing against us are now in Class 2A and 3A."
The youngest in 1986, Joreta was a veteran senior on the 1990 champion. In the latter year, she was "more mature and aware of the game and more comfortable." She was named Player of the Year.
Today she says the Tigers "are the one everybody is after. That puts a little bit of a burden on the girls, but it gives them an extra challenge to continue to be No. 1."
Now the second generation is adding to the tradition because Leslie has two daughters on the team.
is a 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter and one of the top players in Class A. Younger sister Kasyn Creighton
is a 5-10 sophomore and a hard hitter.
At one stage or another, both girls have been coached by their mother and aunt. Kynzi, who is a vice president in the Future Farmers of America, already has played on four state championship teams.
She recalled, "The first year when we won, it was really awesome. It kept getting more surreal each year. It kind of progresses and gets sweeter each year. It (volleyball) is a huge deal to me. It's top priority right now. I feel it is definitely something I was born with. I was expected to play and be successful."
What would happen if the Tigers lost in her senior year?
"We'd be a little upset," she said, "but we'll do everything in our power to keep that from happening. We expect it (another title), our coach expects it and our fans expect it."
Besides his coaching, Chenault also has contributed three daughters to the volleyball tradition. Keisha is the oldest, middle daughter Shealton played on four championship teams and youngest daughter Sadei Chenault
is a freshman on this year's team.
The Tigers, who were 24-0 last year, are building around four returning starters. Besides Kynzi Creighton, they count heavily on another standout, 5-11 senior Lauren Stone
, 5-10 junior Taylor Epps
and 5-6 junior Madi Haley
. Sophomore setter Lacy Ferguson
also has been a pleasant surprise.
They won their first match this year, but were nipped during their second outing, 25-20, 30-28 and 26-24 by Class 2A Hagerman during a tournament. That snapped a 41-match winning streak that stretched over parts of three seasons.
Facing larger schools about one-half of each season, Chenault says this year's team "could be as good. They don't know each other as well (as they will). We've got some holes to fill."
Principal/Athletic Director Larry Gregory, now in his seventh year at Elida, had never seen a volleyball game before leaving Farwell, Texas.
The former basketball coach's first thought after seeing a volleyball net stretched across the middle of the gym, was "Doggone, they messed up the gym," he laughed. Now he says, "There's no substitute for success. I really enjoy it and you can tell they really enjoy playing volleyball."
Interestingly, Elida's girls - with about the same players - also have notched the last five state titles in basketball. Kynzi Creighton pointed out, "We also pride ourselves in our basketball program. We go straight into basketball and still have that same drive and fire."
There is great pride in each state championship and team photos adorn the entrance way to the Elida gym.
However, there is only one - quite unusual - problem: "We're running out of room," Gregory confided. "We are going to have to go in and minimize those pictures. We may auction off the larger pictures."