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All eyes on Torres in District 2-4A

Oliver Torres will be stepping into some big shoes this year.

Torres was named the new girls basketball coach at Española Valley this week, according to a story in the Rio Grande Sun.

Torres, who graduated from Española Valley, played a year at Highlands in the mid-1990s as well as some semi-pro ball. He also has coaching experience at the prep and collegiate level.

The resume is a solid one, to be sure. What remains to be seen, however, is how Torres will fare at the reins for what has become, in a rather short period of time, one of the premier girls hoops programs in the state.

Española Valley has been solid for many years, but seemed to be on the fast-track to greatness under Lisa Villareal in the early 2000s. Villareal, however, fell out of favor with the program and left the school.

In a very short period of time, the bottom seemed to fall out of the Sundevils' girls basketball program. In 2006-07, the Sundevils went completely winless, a stunning finish for a program that had a final four finish in 2001.

Enter Ron Drake.

Drake, a well-respected veteran coach in northern New Mexico, got the Sundevils back to not just relevance, but into contender status. In six years, Drake's Sundevils won four consecutive 2-4A titles and became one of the most feared defenses in 4A, spoken of in the same breath as Kirtland Central.

This year, Española Valley's athletic department, as it does every now and then, decided it would make all of its coaches re-apply for their jobs this offseason. Speculation as to why Española Valley made this move has been rampant, although some believe it was mostly aimed at boys basketball coach Richard Martinez, who is just one year removed from a state 4A title, the only title in program history.

Many, myself included, believe that Drake got upset finding out that he would have to re-apply for a job that he has shown he can do as well as anybody that's ever sat on the Sundevil bench and decided to pull up stakes at Española Valley. He will take over the head job at Pojoaque, a move that immediately puts the Elks among the teams to beat in 3A.

Both Villareal, now steering a powerful Volcano Vista team that went 28-1 last year, and Drake could end up in the state coaches Hall of Fame before they wrap up their careers.

Expectations will be high for Torres, who has two talented returning starters to build off, including All-State player Lauren Quintana. There is plenty of young talent on the roster as well, something he will need in 2-4A with Los Alamos still looming and Santa Fe showing signs of being an emerging power.

If Torres can keep things going at Española Valley, he should have a successful tenure at the school, but maintaining the team's current level of success will be a mighty challenge.