By George Morse
It had been a memorable season for the Dulce High School volleyball team. The Lady Hawks were undefeated at 24-0 and ranked number one in the state by the NMOT Coaches poll in Class 2A. After making school history last season by advancing to the Class 2A state championship game, where they lost to Texico High School, Dulce was looking to return to the championship game and this time bring back the blue first-place trophy.
That dream will have to wait for another season. Mescalero Apache High School ended Dulce’s dream season with a 26-24, 25-20, 25-19 victory over the Hawks in the Class 2A semifinals Nov. 16 at the Santa Ana Star Center in the Laguna Burger State volleyball championships’.
“It was a wonderful season,” Dulce Coach Kathleen Salazar-Valdez said. ”It had to come to an end. We just couldn’t get nothing going.”
Dulce actually had something going in the first set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. They were able to maintain that seven-point lead throughout much of the first set. Dulce was leading 20-13 when things began to start falling apart for the Hawks.
Dulce struggled with their receive-of-serve and Mescalero came up with a couple of aces by Fallon Velasquez. Dulce came back to lead 23-17, only to see the Chiefs rally behind the hitting of Samantha Kazha to get to within a point of Dulce 23-22. Dulce reached set point 24-22 wirh a kill off the block. Kazha had another kill to save that set point, then she went back to serve and stroked an ace to tie the score. A kill by Velasquez gave the Chiefs set point. A kill by Ramona Fossum gave Mescalero a 26-24 victory and helped swing momentum in favor of the Chiefs.
The second set saw Dulce’s Caitlin Duncan hammer down five early kills. It was soon obvious that Dulce’s best chances to score points came when the high-flying Duncan was swinging away in the front row. Dulce was leading 9-5 when Mescalero put together another run by taking advantage of the Hawks troubles with receiving serve. Velasquez stroked a couple of aces and Kazha had a couple of kills. Mescalero came back to take an 11-9 lead. They extended their lead to 14-11 over Dulce.
Duncan’s return to the front row helped the Hawks come back to tie the score and then take a 20-19 lead. Mescalero righted the ship, scored six of the next seven points and won the second set to take a 2-0 lead.
It was all Mescalero in the third set as Dulce couldn’t put even a run of two points together, while the Chiefs put together runs of three to four points to pull away to a 19-9 lead. Dulce’s Tionne Lovato fought at the net with a block and a kill after an ace serve by Duncan and closed the gap to 20-14, but Dulce’s receive of serve was making it hard to get good sets to Lovato or Duncan. Mescalero rolled to a 25-19 victory to advance to the championship match.
“We’re hungry,” Mescalero Coach Alice Velasquez said.
The Chiefs had won a tough match early in the morning Nov. 16 against Penasco High School, coming from behind to take a 13-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-10 victory. Mescalero was able to carry that confidence into the match against Dulce and come back after a slow start in the first set against the Hawks.
“Once we get momentum, we’re hard to stop,” Fallon Velasquez said.
The Chiefs were almost able to carry that momentum to a championship trophy, but lost in the championship game to Texico High School 3-2 as the Lady Wolverines won their sixth straight Class 2A state championship.
Dulce had advanced to the semifinals with a hard-fought 11-25, 25-17,27-25,22-25, 15-13 win Nov.15 over Hagerman High School. Dulce had trouble finishing off the Bobcats, almost blowing a 24-16 lead in the third set and keeping fans on the edge of their seat after taking a 14-10 lead in the fifth set. Duncan provided the winning points in both the third and the fifth set. She stuffed a ball at the net in the third and slammed down a kill in the fifth.
“We just couldn’t execute,” Salazar-Valdez said. “We need to learn to finish. Everybody’s going to come out firing at state.”
In the semifinals, the Hawks couldn’t finish against the Chiefs.