Siena Rencher (#2) playing on Storm at Permian Basin. Photo by Kamryn Bohlken.
Siena Rencher (#2) playing on Storm at Permian Basin. Photo by Kamryn Bohlken.

The newest club to hit Albuquerque, Duke City Volleyball Academy, proved in Midland, Texas, that talent beats out politics. The 15 National 1’s team, known as Storm, beat the Texas team, Guns Up on January 29th in an intense match going to a nail biting three games.

Storm had faced one of the hardest pools out of all the teams in their bracket, playing several other National 1’s teams, and even a couple teams in the 16’s age group.  With a strong offense and a solid defense, Storm made it into the Gold Bracket, defeating Jet, and finally playing Guns Up to fight for third place out of 32 other teams.

The game started out slow. Guns Up had the serve to start; however, Storm got a sideout within the first three points of the first game. Throughout the game there was much intensity on the court and in the crowd. Siblings and parents screaming at their kids to win.  Storm won the first game 25 to 18, but Guns up wasn’t going down without a fight.  A parent in the crowd said, “When you take a dog’s bone, they are going to bite back even harder.” This proved to be true. Guns Up came out strong with a sideout and a two point lead. Guns Up won the second game 25 to 21, and they went to a third game. Pulling ahead once again, Duke City’s Storm started with a four point lead, thanks to  a kill by freshman La Cueva volleyball player, Siena Rencher. The energy of the girls on both courts was obvious. They both wanted to win this game.

In the end, Storm beat Guns Up 15 to 8, but one question remains. Who is Duke City, and where did they come from?  Well, the answer lies in a dark past of politics and corruption.

Gitak Hong, previous  Albuquerque Rebels Volleyball Club  coach, founded Duke City Volleyball Academy when he wanted a better future for him and his players.   He faced many obstacles, and so did the players who followed him. “My biggest obstacle was finding a facility,” said Hong.  However, many of the athletes who followed faced a different obstacle. According to New Mexico Club Volleyball Magazine, “From threats to attempted blackballing, I heard it all.”  However, for Hong, he just wanted to spread opportunity and good coaching.

“I wanted to coach happiness to everyone; players, parents, coaches, but when I was working with ARVC, I couldn’t.”