Volleyball: Stokes leaving coaching post at LA after six years

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By Mike Cote

Time was of the essence.

Los Alamos Public Schools announced Wednesday that Diana Stokes, who led the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team for a total of six years, had put in her resignation.

Stokes was the head coach of the volleyball program from 2001-2002 before stepping down, then retook the helm in the 2005 season.

But with a daughter graduating from the high school and the volleyball program this year and a son starting his freshman year next year, Stokes thought now would be a good time to call it quits.

“I really feel like it’s important to spend more time with my son and with my family,” Stokes said.

One of the main reasons, she said, was that her son plays three different sports and she’d like to be able to attend as many of those games as she can.

“I don’t think parents realize how important it is,” she said. “It’s OK when they can’t come to some games, they can’t get off work or whatever, but for state and things like that, the kids really get down.”

Stokes first took over the program in 2000 after the departure of longtime head coach Sally Shockey, under which the Hilltoppers won three state championships (1987, 1995 and 1996). Prior to taking the head coaching job, Stokes had coached the C team for five seasons.

In 2001, Stokes led Los Alamos to the Class AAAA state final before falling to Goddard, 3-1.

Stokes stepped down before the 2002 season but returned in 2005 when daughters Brittany, then a junior, and Jessica, then a freshman, were going through the program.

This year, Jessica Stokes, a standout setter for Los Alamos, was her senior year.

Following Los Alamos’ loss to St. Pius X in the quarterfinal round at state this season, Stokes said she was going to take a few weeks to decide what she wanted to do.

Los Alamos athletic director Vicki Nelms has already posted the opening on the New Mexico Activities Association’s website, where she usually posts coaching openings, and has informed the public schools’ human resources department of the vacancy.

Los Alamos may have to deal with some competition when restaffing the head coaching job. According to the NMAA website, at least six other volleyball jobs are currently available and in just about every part or the state, including Clovis, Silver, Dexter, Escalante, Farmington and Santa Teresa.

Nelms said it was probably good for Stokes to take some time to decide whether she wanted to retire rather than jump into a decision right away.

Ultimately, Stokes said, the time devoted to coaching was detracting too much from the family time she values.

The Hilltoppers finished 14-9 this season and will lose only Jessica Stokes to graduation. She will play one more high school volleyball match this summer, as she was selected to participate in the Class AAA/AAAA North-South series.

Diana Stokes said she’s not necessarily finished with volleyball or even high school volleyball.

“I still want to coach,” she said. “I just don’t want to be the head coach.”

Stokes said she’s already told Nelms she’s willing to volunteer around the program, such as driving vans to away matches. Stokes also left open the possibility she could return as an assistant or sub-varsity coach at some point.

For now, though, she’s just going to take a breather and enjoy her time off.

Stokes led the team to one of its biggest wins in 2007, when the Hilltoppers upset the Goddard Rockets, a team that has haunted Los Alamos at the state tournament for much of the program’s history, in the AAAA quarterfinals.

Los Alamos, which won games one and three, was down 19-10 to Goddard in game four of that match, in danger of letting its upset bid slip away. But Los Alamos’ powerful front line, led by middle hitter Kristina Little, led the charge back and the Hiltoppers took game four and the match 25-22.

Stokes said that while that contest will stick in her mind for awhile, she’ll miss the road trips with the team the most.

“I love traveling with the girls,” she said. “The overnight trips to Roswell, the summer team camps in Colorado, getting to listen to all the kids’ stories … There’s lots of memories of the girls and how much fun they were. I had a lot of fun with the girls.”