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Lori Mabrey is in her second season as head coach of the Rio Rancho Rams.

“She really likes to yell, but it’s good for us,” said senior Makenna Lee.

“She’s very hard on us, which is good,” added senior Alyssa Vigil.  “She believes in us so much and it’s so helpful and empowering.”

No matter the volume of instruction, what she’s teaching is working.  The Rams are off to a solid start this season with a very young squad.  “We have 19 total freshmen in the program, so we’re extremely young all the way through and we’re pretty excited about things,” said Mabrey.

“We have a really young team, but we’re really good,” said Lee.  “We have a lot of chemistry and really tight friendships on this team, too, which is really nice.”

This year’s group is already on pace to surpass last year’s 14-win total. “We definitely have a better understanding of the culture she wants to bring,” said Lee.  “Last year it was really new and we had to figure out what she wanted us to do and this year we have a better understanding.”

“We’re trying to play up tempo,” described Mabrey.  “I’m a half-court, man-to-man girl, everybody knows that.  I’m probably the easiest scout on everybody’s schedule.”

Winning helps build confidence, and the Rams came out of the gate finishing first at a tournament in Santa Fe. “Just the fact that we were able to come out of there 3-0 really helped boost our confidence,” said Mabrey.  “We are a very young team.  We’ve got two eighth graders on the varsity, we’ve got two ninth graders on the varsity, and we’ve got two sophomores on the varsity that play a lot of extended minutes.  I think it really helped our youngsters feel like they could compete with older kids.”

“I think that boosted morale a lot because we haven’t won in a while, so it was really cool to win and know that we can,” said Lee.

“We are so different from this year to last year and it boosted everyone’s confidence and made us realize what we can do this year if we put our minds to it,” said Vigil.

Mabrey knows what it takes to win.  She led Cibola to a state title back in 2015 and took the program to five state championship appearances.  She left the Cougars and took a less-than-one-year sabbatical before getting back on the bench as a varsity head coach. “I’m hoping that I can get the teams here as good as some of the teams during the glory-day teams were at Cibola High School,” said Mabrey.

“I think this year, in all honesty, we’re probably a mid-tier sort of a team.  We’re very young and I would expect us to be a top tier team by next year.”

Depending on how this young team develops, that could come sooner rather than later.

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