Pojoaque Humbles The Hilltoppers

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Pojoaque's Ashten Martinez (right) goes for a kill against Los Alamos' Elodie Thellizein the Elkettes 25-13, 25-19, 25-14 victory over the Lady Hilltoppers Oct. 16 at Los Alamos (photo by John McHale).

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Pojoaque Humbles The Hilltoppers

The Pojoaque Valley High School volleyball team put up a brick wall and the Los Alamos High School volleyball team ran right into it. The Elkettes stopped a five-match winning streak by the surging Lady Hilltoppers dead in its tracks with a 25-13, 25-19, 25-14 victory Oct. 16 at Los Alamos.

“That’s how we play when we want to play,” Pojoaque Coach Joe Rodriguez said.

How the Elkettes like to play is quick. You won’t see the high passes and sky high sets to the outside. It took Pojoaque less than two hours to beat the Hilltoppers, who have height and leaping ability on their side. Pojoaque counters with quick sets in the middle and shoot sets to the outside.

“Los Alamos has good hitters,” Coach Rodriguez said. “We kept the speed up and we have to run quick. You don’t want high sets and passes. That plays into our opponents hands.”

It’s not that Pojoaque can’t put the ball down when needed. Outside hitters Makenzie Quintana, Camille Cordova and Espy Torres are all capable of coming up with kills when needed. So are middle blockers Ashten Martinez and Leah Trujillo.

Pojoaque's Makenzie Quintana goes for a kill against Los Alamos (photo by John McHale).

A big part of Pojoaque’s success is a strong defense that keeps the ball off the floor. Double blocks on the outside help Pojoaque’s strong back row by touching as many balls as they can. Dig up enough attempted kills and block enough hard hits at the net and opposing hitters start to make mistakes out of frustration. The Elkettes make few service errors and put the ball where Coach Rodriguez wants it to go so even a team with big hitters like Los Alamos can’t smoothly run their offense.

“We kept their bigs off the nets,” Coach Rodriguez said.

Pojoaque’s defense forced the Hilltoppers into more hitting errors than kills. Los Alamos had 24 kills which were more than offset by 30 hitting errors.

“They (Pojoaque) play solid defense,” Los Alamos Coach Joe Palmer said. “They keep the ball up and let you make mistakes. We obliged.”

The only set that Los Alamos managed to keep close to the Elkettes was the second. The Hilltoppers were leading 16-14 when Pojoaque used some offense and defense, along with mistakes by the Hilltoppers, to take control of the match.

A couple of timely kills by Martinez, three hitting errors and a double hit call on Los Alamos gave the Elkettes a 20-16 lead Pojoaque never let go of. In the third set, Los Alamos managed to get within a point of the Elkettes at 6-5 after Pojoaque uncharacteristically committed back-to-back service errors

A kill by Trujillo, two double-hit calls on the Hilltoppers and two hitting errors later, Pojoaque had an 11-5 lead. From there the Elkettes cruised to victory.

Pojoaque is now 4-0 in District 2-4A and alone in first place Overall, the Elkettes are a sparkling 15-1 and ranked second in Class 4A. After going undefeated against their four District 2-4A opponents the first time around, Pojoaque will now face those same opponents again. Taking nothing for granted, Coach Rodriguez will have the Elkettes working on their serving after the back-to-back errors in the third set against Los Alamos. The past is past and Pojoaque needs to take a fresh attitude as the regular season winds down.

“Forget that and start over,” Coach Rodriguez said. “We’re 0-0 now. Otherwise, our district will chew us up.”

Pojoaque faced Espanola Valley High School Thursday (10/18) at Espanola. The Lady Sundevils have been the only team in District 2-4A to push the Elkettes to five sets in a district match. Pojoaque prevailed 25-13, 25-11, 28-30, 20-25, 15-11 to pull out the victory Oct. 2 at Pojoaque.