Girls volleyball preview: Cienega's Mendivil a pillar at net, in class

Cienega senior Stephanie Mendivil had 450 kills last season, for an average of 4.6 per set. "I definitely think I'll be able to beat that 450" this season, she said.


The personalities of brothers Lauro and Raul Soto couldn't be more different. Lauro is quiet and reserved. Raul loves to talk and joke around.

One thing they do share, however, is their love of volleyball.

Their dedication to the game is a big reason why Pueblo is 8-3 and sitting in the top five of the Division I power rankings. The Warriors opened the season on a seven-game winning streak, giving the entire team hope that they could make a run at a state championship this year.

"It's a good goal for them," said Dan Chan, who has been Pueblo's coach since 1997. "Any time a team has a goal like that to shoot for, it jells the group."

As the team continues to push toward its goal, Lauro, a senior captain and outside hitter who leads his team in kills, knows he has to set the pace for his team.

Raul, a sophomore libero, takes a more verbal approach. He's the one who keeps everyone loose during games.

Here are three ways the Soto brothers have taken their games to the next level.

Family time

Before Lauro was pushing Raul to work harder and get better, it was Lauro being pushed by the oldest Soto brother, Armando. He graduated from Pueblo in 2009.

Lauro got his first taste of Pueblo volleyball by watching Armando play. Practicing with his older brother gave Lauro the foundation he needed and some ideas about how to guide Raul when the time came.

Now any family gathering can turn into a game when the Soto brothers are around. Throw in their cousin Fidencio Armenta, who also played at Pueblo and graduated in 2008, and the competition level can get sky-high.

"We like to keep things competitive," said Lauro, who had a 17-kill performance against Palo Verde and a double-double (12 kills and 10 digs) against Sahuaro. "Sometimes when we play with our family, we'll start talking smack to each other. Raul talks more than I do but I try to get him back."

Vertical gains

During the offseason Lauro wanted to work on his vertical leap. After looking on the Internet, he found Jumpsoles, a platform that weighs nearly 5 pounds and attaches to the shoe. It is used in training to focus on the calf muscles in order to add inches to an athlete's vertical.

The Soto brothers added the Jumpsole workouts to their offseason regimen and saw results.

"Before I could barely touch the rim," Lauro said of a 10-foot basketball hoop. "But now I can grab it and hang on it. And it's helped with my power too. I feel like my striking has gotten better because I have more power in my legs."

YouTubing the basics

When they're not working out or practicing, the Sotos are watching videos on how to improve their game on the site that can teach a person just about anything: YouTube. Whether it's videos about how to improve their techniques or different strategies, Lauro and Raul have found YouTube to be a helpful tool.

"We'll look up videos on the basics and some of the more advanced things too," said Raul, the team leader in digs. "We get a lot of good workout ideas and tips on how to improve our games just by watching YouTube."