Española’s Alyssa Aguilar hits against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Lady Sundevils Can’t Finish, Lose to Academy
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
The Española Valley High School volleyball team let an opportunity to throw themselves into the thick of the District 2-5A competition slip away against Albuquerque Academy Oct. 14 at Española. After winning the first two sets 25-14, 25-21, the Lady Sundevils came out flat in the third set and Academy rolled to a 25-12 victory. The Lady Chargers used the momentum from that easy win to take the next two sets 25-22, 15-13 to escape Española with a 3-2 victory.
The Chargers put themselves squarely in control of the District 2-5A standings with a 5-0 record. It was Academy’s third district win on the road.
“In that third set, we thought ‘We got this,’” Española assistant coach Kristi Salazar said. “They weren’t going 100-percent.”
Kristi Salazar was filling in for her father, head coach Damon Salazar, who was stricken with what was said to be kidney stones just before the match.
Española had dominated the first set. Academy came back in the second set and the score was tied 18-18. An ace serve by Dulce Maldonado and a kill by Chloe Fell gave the Sundevils a 21-18 lead.
The teams traded points and the score was 23-21 in favor of Española. Autumn Martinez, who had an outstanding match, put the Chargers away with a pair of kills that gave Española a 25-21 victory.
Española’s Autumn Martinez goes up for a kill against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
“It was probably the best match she’s ever played,” coach Kristi Salazar said. “She had so many kills.”
The third set started innocently enough and the score was tied 2-2 when Academy took the lead and never trailed again. While the Sundevils were picking up a point here and a point there, the Lady Chargers were having runs of two points and three points. Academy was leading 9-5 when the Lady Chargers took control of the set with a10-4 run that gave the Lady Chargers a 19-9 lead.
Academy was serving tough and the Sundevils were having trouble running their offense. When Española had chances to go for a kill, the Chargers were blocking effectively at the net and sending the ball right back at Española. The Sundevils looked nothing like the team that had won the first two sets. Academy rolled to an easy 25-12 victory.
“In the third set, we had thought “Oh, we beat them,’” coach Salazar said. “You have to give 100-percent. We started to have doubt in our minds.”
Academy picked up steam and took off to leads of 6-0 and 12-2 in the fourth set. Slowly, the Sundevils started to right the ship and fought back. A kill by Alyssa Aguilar made the score 21-18 in favor of Academy, who then extended their lead to 23-18. A kill by Martinez and a tip by the Chargers that went out of bounds got Española back to within two points 21-23 of the Chargers and Española seemed to have some momentum.
Española’s Alyssa Aguilar sets against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
A serve into the net stopped the Sundevils’ rally and gave the Chargers set point. Española managed to fight off one set point to make the score 22-24. Academy came up with another big block at the net and won the fourth set 25-22 to set up a decisive fifth set.
The fifth set is played to just 15 points and falling behind early forces a team to expend a lot of energy trying to catch up. That’s what happened to the Sundevils. Academy jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The Sundevils fought back and after another Martinez kill took a 9-8 lead. Academy came back and surged ahead 12-9 after a four-point run.
The Sundevils answered. A kill by Martinez, an ace by Meranda Romero and a double-block by Cheyanne Martinez and Maldonado put the Sundevils ahead 13-12. Maybe Española could come back and win the match after squandering a 2-0 lead.
Española libero Meranda Romero hits the ball over the net against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
A kill by Academy off an Española block evened the score 13-13. Academy won the next point and reached match point 14-13. The Chargers’ Sofia Brito, a freshman who led Academy with 10 kills, put the Sundevils away with a kill that gave the Chargers a 15-13 win and a 3-2 victory in the match.
The loss dealt a serious blow to Española’s chances of advancing to the state volleyball tournament. Española is just 6-8 on the season and fell to 2-3 in District 2-5A. The Sundevils need to finish the season strong and do well in the District 2-5A tournament. If Española faces Academy again, it will be a must-win situation for the Sundevils.
“In the first two sets, that’s how good we are,” coach Salazar said. “We have to beat this team (Academy). In this match, they see they can actually do it. It’s going to be a tough path but I definitely think they (Española) can do it.”
Española’s Dominique Archuleta passes the ball against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post