Hard Work Pays Off, Espanola Pounds Pojoaque

Espanola-Pojoaque volleyball
  Espanola's Chloe Fell goes for a kill against Pojoaque in Espanola's 25-18, 25=12, 25-23 win over the Elkettes Oct. 18 in Espanola (photo by Roman Martinez).

Hard Work Pays Off Espanola Pounds Pojoaque

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Espanola Valley High School volleyball team worked hard to overcome the mistakes that had cost them plenty of points in their previous matches. The hard work paid off and Espanola hammered Pojoaque Valley High School 25-18, 25-12, 25-23 Oct. 18 at Espanola. The victory avenged an earlier loss to Pojoaque 25-13, 25-11, 28-30, 20-25, 15-11 Oct. 2 at Pojoaque.

Outside hitters Dulce Maldonado and Chloe Fell led Espanola’s offense, swinging away at sets by Anita DeAguero and Izabel Sena. Maldonado was on fire and hammered down 22 kills.

“It’s my setter,” Maldonado said. “I’m getting the ball in the right place at the right time.”

Espanola's Dulce Maldonado watches one of her 22 kills sail past Pojoaque's blockers (photo by Roman Martinez).

Fell added 10 kills and had four service aces.

‘We’ve been working hard,” Fell said. “Our coaches have done a good job of preparing us. We can still play better.”

Fell admits that Espanola hadn’t been playing the style of volleyball it was capable of in its earlier matches.

“Honestly, it was laziness,” she said. “We wanted to win more than we were putting in the work.”

Espanola Coach Damon Salazar said that the team is finally playing the volleyball they are capable of.

“They really want to be a good team and have a great season,” he said. “We changed up the tempo at practice and you can see the work they’ve been putting into the game.”

It was the first District 2 -4A loss for the Elkettes, who came into the match with a sparkling 15-1 record and were 4-0 in District 2-4A.

“Espanola played lights out,” Pojoaque Coach Joe Rodriguez said. “They played awesome.”

In the first set, it looked like Espanola was still suffering from its tendency to make mistakes that good teams don’t make. Pojoaque built an early 10-5 lead after a bad set and a bad pass. Unlike earlier matches, Espanola was able to shake off the mistakes and started to chip away at the lead. A tip kill by Fell, who then delivered an ace made the score 14-13 in favor of the Elkettes. After a Pojoaque point, a dink by DeAguero found the floor. Pojoaque was called for a net violation that tied the score at 15-15 and Espanola was just getting started. Two kills by Maldonado, an ace by Meranda Romero and two Pojoaque hitting  errors were part of a 9-0 run by the Sundevils that gave Espanola a 22-15 lead. Three more Maldonado kills finished off the Elkettes in the first set.

In the second set, Espanola was leading 10-8 when a kill by Maldonado started a 7-0 run by the Sundevils. Fell took over after that, recording a block, two kills and an ace that gave Espanola a 24-12 lead. The rattled Elkettes then committed a hitting error to give the Sundevils a 25-12 victory.

In the third set, Pojoaque battled and took an 8-5 lead after a pair of kills by Leah Trujillo. Espanola came back to tie the score at 8-8. After Pojoaque took a 10-8 lead, Fell had a kill and then promptly served up a pair of aces to give the lead to Espanola.

Pojoaque led 12-11 when Maldonado caught fire and hammered down four kills. An ace by Romero and another dink by DeAguero gave Espanola a 17-12 lead. Pojoaque battled back and tied the score at 18-18. A little rally by Espanola put the Sundevils ahead 22-19, but Pojoaque came back again and tied the score 22-22 after an ace by Adriana Quintana.

The Elkettes managed to fight off one match point and were within a point of tying the third set when Fell put Pojoaque away to stay with a kill for a 25-23 victory and a 3-0 sweep of the Elkettes.

With the victory, Espanola improves to 3-2 in District 2-4A. Coach Salazar hopes he has seen the last of the mistake-prone Sundevils and can start building the team he feels the Sundevils can be.

“Our hitters are tremendous,” Coach Salazar said. “Our setters have improved so much. We need to work on our middles because we’re going to need that. It’s a process.”

Pojoaque will lick its wounds and then face Taos Tuesday at Pojoaque.

“They’re mad and that’s good,” Pojoaque Coach Rodriguez said.

Espanola went on the road Saturday (10/20) and beat Class 5A Clovis High School in a nondistrict match 25-18, 22-25, 25-3, 25-21 at Clovis. The Sundevils face Moriarty High School Tuesday in their next District 2-4A match at Moriarty.