Pojoaque Pounds Sandia Prep in Season Opener

Pojoaque middle hitter Ashten Martinez hits the ball over two Sandia Prep blockers.

By George Morse

Pojoaque Pounds Sandia Prep in Opening Match

With a veteran front line returning for the Elkettes, the Pojoaque Valley High School volleyball team had no problems putting away Sandia Prep High School 25-14, 25-16, 25-15 in their opening match of the season Aug. 29 at Pojoaque.

Pojoaque’s Ashten Martinez reacts quickly to a ball near the net as her teammates get ready for action against Sandia Prep.

The Sundevils returned just two senior players from a team that made it to the Class 3A state volleyball championship game last season, where they were defeated by St. Michael’s High School. Sandia had a run of three straight Class 4A state championships from 2015-2017 prior to that. However, this year looks like a rebuilding year for the Sundevils.

“We have two of the better if not the best middle hitters in the state,” Pojoaque Coach Joe Rodriguez said. “We came out nervous,. Once we got them going, we settled down.” 

Those middle hitters, senior Ashten Martinez and junior Leah Trujillo, evenly split 16 of Pojoaque’s 23 kills.

“We were pretty nervous before the game,” Martinez said. “We settled down pretty quickly.”

What distinguishes a veteran club like Pojoaque is the fast tempo the Elkettes like to play on offense. While Sandia spent a lot of time watching and waiting for the ball to come down thanks to high passes and high sets, Pojoaque moved quickly to the ball. Passes were crisp and sets were quick.

“We like to do everything at a high tempo,” Rodriguez said.

Pojoaque’s Alicia Quintana tips the ball past two Sandia Prep blockers.

Pojoaque had a fine match from the service line, recording eight aces and serving at a 95.9 percentage. That resulted in a lot of free balls from the Sundevils, who had trouble handling Pojoaque’s serves. The Elkettes had just three service errors.

Pojoaque will be breaking in a new setter in junior Ayana Aguirre and a new libero in senior Mikayla Padilla. Aguirre had 20 assists and Padilla came up with 15 digs. 

“Ayana did well setting her first varsity match,” Rodriguez said. “The back row handled it pretty well.”

Despite the dominating performance over the Sundevils, Padilla knows that Pojoaque still needs work. She rated the back row’s performance at a “7-to-8.”

“We need to communicate more and react faster,” she said. “I want to get better passes.”

Martinez is less specific.

“We need to work on everything right now,” she said.

The Elkettes face Robertson High School Tuesday (9/3) at Pojoaque. The Lady Cardinals will likely give the Elkettes a tough match. Robertson defeated Pojoaque twice last season, although one win was later forfeited.