Espanola's Chloe Fell goes for a kill against Pojoaque in the Elkettes 25-13, 25-11, 28-30, 20-25, 15-11 victory over Espanola Oct. 2 at Pojoaque.
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
Elkettes, Sundevils Battle Down to the Wire in District Opener
What looked like a short night for the Pojoaque Valley High School volleyball team turned out to be a drawn out battle against local rival Espanola Valley High School in the District 2-4A opener for both teams Oct. 2 at Pojoaque before Pojoaque pulled out a 25-13, 25-11, 28-30, 20-25 , 15-11 victory in the District 2-4A opener for both teams.
It seemed like the Sundevils had forgotten how to play volleyball in the first two sets, committing mistake after mistake as the steady Elkettes breezed through with 25-13, 25-11 victories to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Like a tape in the old Mission Impossible television series, Espanola looked like it was about to self-destruct.
While Espanola was imploding, Pojoaque was playing the kind of volleyball that earned them five straight state championships. Blocking well in the middle with Leah Trujillo and Ashten Martinez, digging like gophers to keep the ball alive, serving tough and some timely hitting.
Pojoaque's Leah Trujillo (left) and Makenzie Quintana go up to block Espanola's Dulce Maldonado's attempt at a kill (Photo by Roman Martinez)
In the third set, Espanola managed to take an early lead and like flipping a switch went from off to on. The mistakes of the first two sets went away and Espanola started serving and hitting with confidence. The Sundevils rely on the outside hitting of senior Chloe Fell and junior Dulce Maldonado. In the third set, they started to deliver.
“We finally made the decision not to play soft anymore,” Espanola Coach Damon Salazar said.
A pair of Maldonado kills got Espanola started and the Sundevils jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Fell took over and had timely kills that kept Pojoaque from making a run. With Espanola leading 14-9, Pojoaque got a couple of kills from Ashten Martinez and started to chip away at the lead. The Elkettes caught the Sundevils at 15-15 and went ahead 18-16. Fell kept Espanola from slipping too far behind with timely kills. When Maldonado moved back to the front, she delivered a pair of kills to tie the score at 21-21.
Pojoaque reached set and match point at 24-22, but a kill by Maldonado saved one match point. On the next point, a hit by Pojoaque’s Camille Cordova was ruled in by the line judge. However, Espanola Coach Damon Salazar protested and after a conference, referees reversed the call and awarded the point to Espanola, tying the score 24-24.
Pojoaque led 25-24 when a kill by Maldonado saved another match point. A kill by Trujillo gave Pojoaque another match point 28-27, but a kill by Kiana Duran saved that point. Pojoaque then committed two errors of its own to give the Sundevils a 30-28 win, extending the match to a fourth set.
Now playing with confidence, Espanola once again took an early 12-3 lead and this time the Elkettes never got those points back. Maldonado, Fell and Duran combined for 10 kills and the Sundevils didn’t make many mistakes. Espanola took a 25-20 win to extend the match to a fifth set.
“Pojoaque is a good team,” Coach Salazar said. “They block and play good defense. You have to outhit them.”
The fifth set is played to just 15 points and an early lead can prove to be critical. It looked like that would be Espanola after a pair of kills by Maldonado gave the Sundevils a 2-0 lead.
However, a block by Trujillo gave the serve to Pojoaque. With Alyssa Rodriguez serving, Makenzie Quintana got a kill. Espanola made a mistake and couldn’t get the ball back over the net on a bad set. Rodriguez the served three straight service winners as the Sundevils were lacking communication on the back row.
“That was key,” Coach Salazar said. “We never got those points back.”
The two teams kept trading points and Espanola got some key kills from Roxane Deleon, Maldonado’s fifth kill of the fifth set made the score 13-11 the Sundevils had some momentum.
On the next point Pojoaque outside hitter Espy Torres went for a tip and Espanola couldn’t handle the soft shot, which slipped off the block, fell to the floor and gave Pojoaque set and match point. This time, Maldonado’s attempt at a kill to tie the score went out of bounds and Pojoaque had pulled out the win in a key district match.
“You have to protect your home court,” Pojoaque Coach Joe Rodriguez said. “I expect all our district matches to be rough.”
The Elkettes improved to 2-0 in District 2-4A play two nights later with a 3-0 win at Taos. Espanola bounced back and evened its district record at 1-1 with a 3-1 win Oct. 4 over Moriarty High School at Espanola. Espanola is at Los Alamos High School Oct. 9 in its next District 2-4A match. Pojoaque hosts Moriarty Oct. 11 at Pojoaque.