Espanola Goes Down Fighting In Five Sets To Goddard
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
There were tears at the end of the match when the Espanola Valley High School volleyball team lost to Goddard High School 26-24, 17-25, 25-21, 22-25, 10-15 in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state volleyball tournament Nov. 11 at the Santa Ana Star Center.
It was the end of the road for a long journey of growth and bonding. After a regular season that saw the Lady Sundevils start as losers and transform themselves into a team that won the District 2-5A championship, Espanola couldn’t hang on to the victory that could have extended theirseason into the state semifinals.
“We just let it away,” Espanola Coach Damon Salazar said. “It was just unfortunate.”
It was a rocky start to the season for the Espanola Valley High School volleyball team. The Class 5A Lady Sundevils were swept 3-0 by Class 4A St. Michael’s High School in their opening match of the season and lost to another Class 4A high school, Hope Christian 3-1 to start the season with a 0-2 record.
With last year’s starting setter Celina Naranjo and leading hitter Kaitlyn Romero having graduated, the Sundevils had to rebuild their offense. Young outside hitters freshman Dulce Maldonado and sophomore Chloe Fells, along with junior Autumn Martinez, were now the players that Espanola would count on to come up with the big kills that score points. Senior Brenda Garduno had experience at middle hitter, where she would be backed up by junior Cheyanne Martinez. A senior trio of Alycia Archibeque, Leah DeAguero and Dez Enaldo anchored the back row, with sophomore Meranda Romero adding depth and a strong serve
Photos by George Morse with the Valley Daily Post
The all-important position of setter, who runs the offense and gives the hitters the opportunity to swing for kills, was taken on by senior Raylynn Quintana. A former hitter herself, Quintana worked hard to develop the soft hands and learned to know her hitters and where they want the ball.
“We learned to grow together, to work well together” Quintana said. “We played our hearts out.’
Quintana was voted District 2-5A Player of the year.
“She did a fantastic job,” Coach Salazar said.
The Sundevils battled back from the brink of defeat in the first set of the match against Goddard. Trailing 24-22, Fells hammered down a pair of kills to tie the score. It looked like Espanola had taken a 25-24 lead when eighth-grader Anita DeAguero served up an ace, but Goddard had called a timeout just before the serve. Coach Salazar rolled his eyes in frustration.
He need not have worried. DeAguero served up another ace to give thr Lady Sundevils set point. Fells hammered down another kill to give Espanola the victory 26-24 in the first set.
“At the beginning of the season I was afraid of getting blocked,” Fells said. (My team) helped me so
much. Without them, I couldn’t be a better me. There’d be no me at all.”
In the second set, Goddard kept the Lady Sundevils out of rythum with effective serving. After a service
error by Espanola gave the Lady Rockets a 20-16 lead, Goddard scored five of the next six points for the
victory to even the match.
They served us good and we didn’t pass like we normally do,” Coach Salazar said. “I think that’s what got
In the third set, Espanola squandered a 17-11 lead and the Lady Rockets came roaring back to take a 20-
18 lead. Fells hammered down a pair of kills to tie the score. Afetr the Lady Rockets had taken a 21-20
lead, another kill by Fells tied the score. An ace by Quintana gave Espanola a 23-21 lead. After a hitting
error by the Lady Rockets gave Espanola set point, Autumn Martinez smacked down a kill to give the
Lady Sundevils a 25-21 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.
In the fourth set, service errors hurt the Lady Sundevils. With the score tied 15-15, the Sundevils
committed three service errors that stalled their attempts to come back. The first service error gave
Goddard a 21-17 lead. A kill by Maldonado, who then teamed with Garduno for a block, got the score to
21-19. A second service error22-19 and a Goddard block made it 23-19. Espanola battled back behind a
service winner by Autumn Martinez and a bit of confusion on the Goddard side of the net to close to
within a point 23-22.
However, Martinez’s next serve went into the net to give Goddard set point. A kill by Camarynn
Villalpando gave the Lady Rockets a 25-22 victory and evened the match at 2-2, forcing a fifth game.
The fifth set is played to just 15 points and falling behind early makes it hard to fight back.
That’s what happened to the Lady Sundevils, as Goddard took an early 8-3 lead with a five-point run that
started with another service error by Espanola. The Lady Sundevils fought back. A service winner by
Archibeque and a pair of hitting errors by the Lady Rockets made the score 8-7 and Goddard called a
Coming out of the timeout, Archibeque served the ball into the net. The rejuvenated Rockets rattled off
three more points to take a 12-7 lead.
“Missing a serve out of a timeout, that’s a rule of volleyball-you don’t do that,” Coach Salazar said. “We
missed some serves at critical, critical times. People don’t realize the pressure that’s on you. Sometimes
they come out like aces and sometimes they fail. It’s one of those things.”
The Sundevils got two kills by Maldonado to make the score 12-10, but Goddard scored the next three
points. A block by Bailey Beene at set point sealed the Sundevils’ fate.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the seniors Archibeque, Leah DeAguero, Enaldo, Quintana and
Garduno. They had taken a raw team and turned it into a strong unit.
“What great, great kids we had,” Coach Salazar said. “I can’t say enough about our seniors. They worked
with the younger kids. They’re not natural leaders,not aggressive leaders. They worked on it and did a
great job. I’m sad to see them leave.”
Maldonado and Fells each had 16 kills. Quintana finished with 44 assists. Leah DeAguero had 25 digs.
Í’m leaving here proud,” Garduno said. “I’m proud of my team.”