Flagstaff’s Gracelyn Nez (15) spikes the ball during her team’s home match against Coconino in 2020.
Flagstaff’s Gracelyn Nez (15) spikes the ball against Mingus Union at Flagstaff High School during an October match.
Flagstaff’s Gracelyn Nez (15) attacks the Lee Williams blockers during a Saturday morning match in October this season at the War Memorial Gymnasium.
For everyone around and involved with high school sports during the fall seasons, things were different, to say the least.
The same can also be said for Flagstaff volleyball junior star Gracelyn Nez, who didn’t overlook how lucky her team was to play despite the pandemic.
Normally, the War Memorial Gym is rocking when the Eagles play. The students get into it, along with the other fans — many of which are there to watch Nez. This season, though, the crowd was limited to 20% and a substantially smaller student section.
“Honestly, it was really different,” Nez said in a recent phone interview. “So many other teams didn’t have a season, and for us to have a season and compete at state and practice, I thought of it as a gift.”
For the first time really in her high school career, Nez battled injuries in the fall, including an ankle injury that took some time to heal. She eventually looked like her normal, hard-hitting and exciting self near the end of the regular season.
“I was really pushing to get my ankle better because it was a really, really short season,” Nez said. “The unexpected was kinda expected. Two weeks of being off, so I was just like, ‘I want to be on the court,’ because my team was really good this year.”
In fact, her return to her normal self went hand-in-hand with the Eagles’ near upset over the 4A conference’s then-No. 1 Notre Dame Prep and Flagstaff’s win over then-No. 4 Seton Catholic on the road just before the state tournament. The Eagles did it again in the playoffs, knocking off third-seeded Deer Valley in the quarterfinals.