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Strauss, Yellow sweep prep volleyball postseason awards for Aztec

FARMINGTON − Head coach Anna Strauss and senior kill leader Nizhoni Yellow have earned recognition from the Daily Times for their efforts in high school volleyball by being named coach and player of the season.

Strauss, who's been coaching the Lady Tigers for more than 30 years, led the team to a perfect 10-0 record in District 1-4A play this season, which earned them a district title and a seven-seed in the state volleyball tournament earlier this month at the Rio Rancho Event Center.

Yellow, who led the team in kills and was third in the state in that category among Class 4A standouts, was one of several stars for the team who helped them advance to the third round of the state tournament.

After winning their opening match in the double-elimination tournament over district rival Kirtland Central, Aztec lost in the second round to St. Pius before beating Silver in the first round of consolation play. The Lady Tigers saw their season come to an end with a three games to none sweep at the hands of Los Alamos.

Strauss led the Lady Tigers in 1992 to a Class 3A state volleyball championship and has won more than 300 matches in her career as coach of the Tigers. Aztec has two state volleyball titles in the school's history, the first coming in 1981.

"(Strauss) has been doing a great job for kids in this community for a long time," said Aztec High School athletic director Bryan Sanders. "What made this year's team special was they were a lot of fun to watch and they played so hard and had fun with each other."

After a 5-3 start to the season, the Lady Tigers went on a roll, winning 16 matches in a row, which included a perfect run through district and their first district title in six years.

"They worked through the hard stuff," Strauss said after winning the district title. "They've worked so hard to earn this honor."

Honorable mentions for coach of the year in high school volleyball go to Navajo Prep's Jolynn Joe and Kirtland Central's Nadia Begay-Watson. Joe led the Lady Eagles to a District 1-3A title while Begay-Watson coached the Lady Broncos to a second place record in District 1-4A.

Yellow, a three-year starter for the Lady Tigers volleyball team who has also competed in softball as well as track and field for the school, excelled on the volleyball courts where she recorded 455 kills in her career.

In addition to more than 100 service aces and more than 440 digs in her career, Yellow has been a leader on and off the court.

"(Yellow) leads by her play and her work ethic every day," Strauss said. "She is an all-around player and a genuinely true teammate."

Honorable mentions for player of the year in prep volleyball go to Aztec's Madison Edwards, who led the team with 75 service aces this season, as well as Farmington's Ali Gillen and Kirtland Central's Teghan Begay.