Espanola Still Own Worst Enemy

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Espanola's Chloe Fell goes for a kill and Los Alamos' Elise Olivas goes for a block in the Hilltoppers 25-22, 25-16, 25-22 victory over the Sundevils Oct. 9 in Los Alamos (photo by John McHale).

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Espanola Still Its Own Worst Enemy

The Espanola Valley High School volleyball team is still looking for answers after being swept by Los Alamos High School 25-22, 25-16, 25-22 in a District 2-4A match Oct. 9 in Los Alamos. The Lady Sundevils have yet to correct the mistakes they have committed that have led to a 1-2 record in District 2-4A competition.

Against the Hilltoppers, Espanola committed 13 service errors and 15 hitting errors. The mistakes cost the Sundevils possible victories in the first and third sets, both of which Espanola Coach Damon Salazar felt Espanola could win.

“I don’t think we ever got going,” Coach Salazar said. “We didn’t play with passion.”

That lack of passion and the service errors raised its ugly head in the third set. Espanola had fought back gamely in the first set after falling behind 8-1, but couldn’t recover from their own mistakes. The second set belonged to Los Alamos. The listless Sundevils quickly fell behind in the third set.

Los Alamos, on the other hand, was swinging away with confidence. The Hilltoppers have two strong middle blockers and good outside hitters. They spread the wealth. Natalie Gallegos, Elodie Thelliez and Sophia Salazar had kills. Libero Kyla Sandoval and Ariel Edkin had service aces and Los Alamos picked up a point on a double block to take a 9-3 lead in the third set. Espanola made a little run thanks to a kill and an ace by Andrea Perea. The Sundevils started to chip away at the Hilltoppers’ lead.

Espanola's Andrea Perea (left) and Dulce Maldonado go up to block a hit by Los Alamos' Ariel Edkin (photo by John McHale).

The Hilltoppers left the door open for Espanola after taking an 11-7 lead when Los Alamos sent back-to-back service errors into the net, but Espanola couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, committing two service errors of their own. Despite that, Espanola managed to tie the score. The Sundevils rely heavily on outside hitters Dulce Maldonado and Chloe Fell. An kill and an ace by Maldonado made the score 14-14. Right after her ace, Maldonado sent her next serve into the net.

“Our serving really let us down tonight,” Coach Salazar said.

Fell had a kill off the block to tie the score again at 15-15, but the Hilltoppers won the next point. Los Alamos gave the Sundevils a gift with a service error that tied the score 16-16, but another serve into the net by the Sundevils gave the lead back to Los Alamos.

“When we missed our serves is what really matters,” Coach Salazar said. “We let them off the hook.”

The Hilltoppers never trailed again. Espanola had a chance to tie the score at 19-18, but another service error gave the Hilltoppers a 20-18 lead. Back-to-back kills by Thelliez helped Los Alamos take a 23-19 lead. A little dink by setter Anita DeAguero helped Espanola get back to within a point 23-22. With the score 24-22, Salazar put the Sundevils away with a cross-court kill.

Fell and Maldonado each had seven kills for Espanola. Gallegos led Los Alamos with 11 kills and Salazar had nine kills for the Hilltoppers. Los Alamos setter Elise Olivas had 22 assists, while DeAguero had 18 assists.

Espanola's Dominique Archuleta goes down and digs against Los Alamos (photo by John McHale).

Espanola normally runs a 6-2 offense with DeAguero and Izabel Sena sharing the setting duties. Sena suffered a concussion against Moriarty Oct. 4 and had to sit out the Los Alamos match.

“Anita did a good job running the 5-1 offense for the first time,” Coach Salazar said. “We’ll have Izabel back for the next match.”

Espanola has had a Dr. Jeykel-Mr. Hyde personality so far this season. At times, Espanola looks dominant when their outside hitting is clicking and their serves aren’t going into the net. At other times, mistake after mistake drags them down.

“We’ve gotta figure it out soon,” Coach Salazar said. “We’ve just gotta stop doing that.”

Espanola faces Capital High School Saturday in a non-district match in Santa Fe. The Sundevils face Taos High School  Oct. 16  in their next District 2-4A match in Espanola.