Española picks up District Win

by Staff Reporter / Oct 05, 2017 / comments
Española’s Dulce Maldonado slams one of her 18 kills off the block of Capital High School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española picks up District Win

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Española Valley High School picked up a key victory over Capital High School with a 25-17, 25-21, 18-25, 25-18 win in a District 2-5A volleyball match Oct. 4 at Española.

It had been two weeks since Española alley High School had tasted victory on the volleyball court and even longer since they had finished a match on their home floor. After losing their first home match of the season Aug. 30 to St. Michael’s, the Lady Sundevils had had two home matches canceled due to power outages and have been on the road.  After defeating Aztec High School Sept. 19 in Aztec, the Lady Sundevils had lost three matches, including 3-0 losses to District 2-5A rivals Los Alamos High School and Albuquerque Academy. The loss to Los Alamos was at the Rio Rancho Tournament, so it will not count in the District 2-5A standings. The loss to Academy was the Lady Sundevils’ District 2-5A opener Sept. 28 in Albuquerque, getting Española off to a 0-1 start in District 2-5A competition.

A loss to Capital would have meant a 0-2 start in District 2-5A. Española was determined not to let it happen.

“We wanted it way more tonight,” libero Meranda Romero said. “We played for each other.”

Romero had 41 digs against Capital, frustrating the Lady Jaguars as she dug up Capital’s attempts at a kill.

Española libero Meranda Romero makes a pass against Capital High School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“Meranda is being the kind of libero that we really need for this team,” Española Coach Damon Salazar said. “This is the first time we played pretty clean volleyball.”

Romero not only digs the ball and passes it to Española’s setters, she gives her front-line hitters instructions on where to go for the kill.

“I talk to my hitters,” Romero said. “I tell them where the holes are and the spot on the court to hit at. Our hitters have great control.”

Benefitting from Romero’s advice was outside hitter Dulce Maldonado, who hammered down 18 kills and came up with a surprising 6 digs.

“Getting kills, getting points, that raises the energy level,” Maldonado said. “When the energy level is high, that’s when we play our best.”

What really helped the Lady Sundevils in the first two sets was getting off to a quick start. Española jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set. Capital closed to 12-10, but Española pulled away to a 22-13 lead when Cheyanne Martinez’s soft serve fell to the floor for an ace. A bad serve and a hitting error by the Lady Jaguars gave Española a 25-17 victory.

Española’s Cheyanne Martinez hits the ball over the net against Capital. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Lady Sundevils rode the strong arm of Maldonado in the second set.  She had three kills to help Española take an 8-1 lead. The Lady Sundevils stayed comfortably ahead until Capital rallied to close to within three points 16-13. Maldonado stopped the surge with a kill and Española went on to take a 25-21 victory.

The third set saw Española fall into a funk at the start and not pull out of it until it was too late. Capital started the set with a 9-0 run. The Sundevils made unforced errors and four bad serves, never really getting close to Capital after the Lady Jaguars established that big lead. Capital cruised to a 25-18 victory, helped by the presence of Coach Max Vargas on the sideline. Could the momentum have shifted to the Lady Jaguars?

The Lady Sundevils have struggled when they make mistakes like the ones that cost them the third set against Capital.

“They pout,” Coach Salazar said. “They get down. All of a sudden, they’re pressing, missing the court. One thing leads to another and it’s like we’re stuck in quicksand. They need to relax. They’re going to make mistakes.”

The Lady Sundevils righted the ship in the fourth set.  Maldonado had three kills and Anita DeAguero had an ace to help Española take a 7-0 lead. Another Maldonado kill and an ace from Dominique Archuleta and the Lady Sundevils had a 10-1 lead.

From there, it was a team effort as Chloe Fell, Andrea Perea and even setter Alyssa Aguilar had kills for Española. The Lady Sundevils took a 25-18 victory and won the match 3-1. That evened their record in District 2-5A at 1-1 and improved their overall record to 5-6 on the season.

Española’s Andrea Perea puts the ball past the blockers from Capital High School in Española’s 3-1 victory over the Lady Jaguars Oct. 4 at Española. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“After Academy, we really needed to beat Capital,” Aguilar said. “We needed to bring it. We really wanted to play knew we could.”

Española setter Alyssa Aguilar puts the ball up at the net against Capital High School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española has another big match Saturday when they face Los Alamos High School at Española. The Lady Hilltoppers are just 4-10 overall and 0-2 in District 2-5A.

“We’re a powerful team when we get it going,” Coach Salazar said. “We were swinging at it tonight (against Capital). I’m really proud of them. They’ve had a lot of adversity this season.”