Española Beats Lady Knights, Face Must-Win Future

by Staff Reporter / Nov 02, 2017 / comments
Española’s Dulce Maldonado hits against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española Beats Lady Knights, Face Must-Win Future

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School volleyball team snapped a five-match losing streak and managed to slip into third place in the District 2-5A standings with a 25-17, 25-16, 27-25 victory over Del Norte High School Oct. 28 at Española.

With the victory, Española improved to 7-11 on the season and 3-5 in District 2-5A. The Lady Sundevils were tied with Del Norte, which also had a 3-5 district record, but the tiebreaker went to the Sundevils.

It was the last regular season home match for Española and the Sundevils started strong. Española took a 21-10 lead in the first set rolled to a 25-17 victory behind the right-side hitting of Autum Martinez and the outside hitting of Dulce Maldonado.

Despite starting the second set with service errors that handed the Lady Knights five of their first seven points, the Sundevils surged ahead 21-11 and dominated play at the net. It looked like it would be a clean sweep for the Sundevils after they easily won the second set 25-16 to go up 2-0 in the match.

Yet, it was not the first time that Española had taken a 2-0 lead in their recent matches. The Sundevils led 2-0 against Albuquerque Academy Oct. 14 at Española, only to lose the next three sets and fall 3-2 to the Lady Chargers. It was déjà vu when the Sundevils took on Los Alamos Oct. 25 in Los Alamos. Once again, Española won the first two sets only to lose the next three and fall 3-2 to the Lady Hilltoppers.

So when the Sundevils started the third set letting the Knights pull ahead, it was a little nerve-wracking for their fans. Fortunately, Española finally pulled it together at the end. Chloe Fell, who had made some earlier mistakes that had cost the Sundevils points, came through in the clutch. She stuffed an overpass by Del Norte at the net, then smacked down a kill to give Española a 27-25 victory and a 3-0 sweep of the Knights.

Española’s Chloe Fell goes for a kill against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

‘We actually played as a team,” senior Cheyanne Martinez said. “We played for each other and had fun.”

Senior Autum Martinez has emerged as a key member of the Sundevils front row hitting from the right side. She has consistently come up with big kills.

“I’m connecting with my setter a lot more,” Autum Martinez said. “It was intense. We need to keep up the intensity.”

The Sundevils run two setters and senior Alyssa Aguilar is the one who Autum Martinez has been connecting with. Aguilar returned to volleyball for her senior year after not playing her junior year.

“I feel like I’m part of another family,” Aguilar said. ‘I’ve had a really good time.”

 Española’s Alyssa Aguilar sets against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Coach Damon Salazar has given more playing time to freshmen Kianna Duran and junior Izabel Sena. Both have emerged as key players and contributed to the win over Del Norte.

“It give me a lot of options,” Coach Salazar said. “I’m really proud of those kids.”

By finishing third in the district standings, Española will play Tuesday (10/31) in the District 2-5A tournament against the winner of the Del Norte-Los Alamos match that is being played Monday (10/30). I f the Sundevils win that match, they will play Capital High School Thursday in Santa Fe. The District 2-5A championship game will be played Saturday (11/4) at Albuquerque Academy. Academy finished first during the regular season in District 2-5A with an 8-0 record.

Coach Salazar harbors no illusions about the Sundevils chances of advancing to the Class 5A state basketball tournament. Española’s mediocre overall record of 7-11 leaves the Sundevils with only one option-win the District 2-5A tournament.

“We have to win every game now,” Coach Salazar said. “I feel like we can beat those teams. We need to be the aggressor. Make things happen. If we’re not the aggressor, we probably lose.”

The win over Del Norte gives him hope.

“We played with a lot more purpose tonight,” Coach Salazar said. “I’m proud we won. I hope it’s a sign of things to come.”