Peñasco Surprises Lady Lobos

by Staff Reporter / Oct 24, 2017 / comments
Peñasco's Adrianna Tafoya hits against Escalante. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Peñasco Surprises Lady Lobos

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Sometimes, records can be deceiving. By all odds, Escalante High School looked like a sure bet to beat Peñasco High School in their District 2-5A volleyball match Oct. 21 in Peñasco. The Lady Panthers shocked the Lady Lobos with a 25-9, 25-8, 26-24 victory that throws the District 2-5A title race into chaos.

“I finally got them to click together and play as one,” Peñasco Coach InezAnna Gonzales said. “They played to their potential and did a great job.”

Peñasco had a very unimpressive 4-13 won-lost record going into their District 5-2A match Oct. 21 in Peñasco. The Lady Panthers were 3-2 in district play, but those victories had come against Mora High School and Mesa Vista High School. Mora is just 3-11 on the season and Mesa Vista 1-14, while combined both teams were 1-11 in District 5-2A.

Escalante was 13-3 and 5-1 in District 2-5A. The Lady Lobos were battling Questa High School for the regular season District 2-5A title, which would earn an automatic berth in the Class 2A state tournament and the right to host the championship game of the District 2-5A tournament. The Lobos are ranked sixth in the state, while Peñasco had a lowly 18th ranking.

The way the Panthers pounced on the Lobos in the first set, you’d have never guessed they were underdogs. Peñasco pounded out kills and ace serves to take a commanding 17-4 lead. The Panthers controlled the net and found the open areas of the court. Peñasco took a surprisingly easy 25-9 victory.

In the second set, it was more of the same. Peñasco dominated the action and took a 19-7 lead. The Panthers finished the set scoring the last six points for an even easier 25-8 victory.

In the first two sets, the Panthers were serving tough and Escalante was sending free ball after free ball over the net. A free ball is when the opposing team simply sends a ball over the net that’s easy to handle. That allows the other team to run the classic volleyball offense of pass, set and hit. Peñasco could run their offense and their hitters were putting down kills.

“We’ve been working on our serves all week,” Coach Gonzales said. “It paid off.”

The third set would begin as if the Panthers would continue to dominate after a kill by Ariana MacAuley and an ace serve by Alaska Lopez. However, Lopez’s next serve went into the net. Peñasco would commit seven service errors and the Lobos took advantage of them. Escalante became the aggressors and Peñasco was back on its heels. The Lobos started to get some kills from Sarah Hurd and Aubrianna Hinds. The middle of the set remained close. Neither team could pull away until Escalante used another service error, an ace by Rikki Rivas and a kill by Hinds to take a 20-15 lead.

Penasco’s Carly Gonzales gets ready to send the ball over the net. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Panthers committed another service error and after a kill by Hurd and an ace by Hinds, Escalante had set point with a 24-18 lead. Despite being blown out in the first two sets, could the Lobos come back.

Junior Bianca Contreras stepped to the service line for Peñasco. A service error now and Escalante would win the set. Contreras stayed steady. She served up an ace to make the score 24-21. Jennifer Aguilar followed with two well-placed hits for kills, putting Peñasco within a point of tying the game. A rattled Escalante hit the ball out of bounds to tie the score 24-24.

Their nerves shaken, Escalante was called for a double hit to give the Panthers set and match point. Another hit out of bounds and Peñasco had finished the set with an 8-0 run and earned a 26-24 victory. The Panthers swept the Lobos 3-0 and improved to 4-2 in District 2-5A.

It was Peñasco’s “Dig Pink” match in support of breast cancer research and there was a good crowd of Peñasco fans in attendance. The energy from their fans helped the Panthers.

“In the third set, we became kind of quiet and didn’t talk as much,” Peñasco senior Carly Gonzales said. “The crowd, the community, they encouraged us to keep pushing. We all came together again.”

Penasco’s Carly Gonzales sets for a teammate against Escalante. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Peñasco has been handicapped this season because five of its six starters on the volleyball team also run on the cross country team.  Peñasco’s cross country team is the defending Class 2A state champion and Gonzales is seeking her second state individual championship in three years. The Panthers will compete in the District 5-A/2A meet Oct. 27 at Raton.

“We’re like a family,” Gonzales said. “We just all want to have fun playing volleyball as a team.”

Escalante drops to 5-2 in the District 2-5A volleyball standings. Questa takes over first place with a district record of 6-1. Peñasco, at 4-2 in District 2-5A, is now a contender for the District 2-5A title.

Escalante has one game remaining in District 2-5A against Mora Oct. 26 at Mora. The Rangerettes are notoriously tougher to play in Mora. A loss by Escalante could drop them to 5-3 in district play. Questa finishes its district season Oct. 28 at Peñasco. The Panthers have two district games left at Mesa Vista Oct. 26 and hosting Questa.

If Peñasco wins its last two district games, including defeating Questa, the Panthers would finish 6-2 in District 2-5A play. Questa would fall to 6-2 and be tied with Peñasco.  Questa could win the title outright by defeating Peñasco and finishing 7-1. If Escalante beats Mora at Mora, the Lobos would also be 6-2, making a three-way tie for first place. If Escalante loses to Mora, they would fall to 5-3 in District and into third place.

Escalante Coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez is disappointed that her team couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity and defeat Peñasco.

“We had a chance to take control in the district and let it go,” she said. “We failed to get the job done. We didn’t come out to play. Peñasco came out and kicked our butts. We need to refocus, come together and come ready to play.”

Peñasco's Adrianna Tafoya passes against Escalante. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post