Pojoaque’s Alicia Quintana goes for a kill against Espanola in the Elkettes’ 3-0 victory over the Sundevils Oct. 1 at Espanola.
By George Morse
After playing the role of “Road Warriors” for the first month of the 2019 volleyball season, Espanola Valley High School finally took the floor at Edward Medina Gym for their first home game of the season Oct. 1 in Espanola. The Lady Sundevils had a record of 3-4 coming into the game against local rival Pojoaque Valley High School. The Elkettes made the Espanola’s home debut short, not sweet, sweeping the Sundevils 25-14, 25-14, 25-9 in the District 2-4A opener for both teams.
“We can’t seem to get over this hump” Espanola Coach JuliAnn Martinez said. “Halfway through we stop talking, stop having fun. It gets into their heads and that’s when the mistakes start coming.”
That was the pattern in the first two sets of the match. Playing with the adrenaline that comes with a home crowd and taking advantage of Pojoaque service errors, the beginning of the first set was back-and-forth. The lead kept changing hands. Espanola’s primary offensive weapon, outside hitter Dulce Maldonado, was getting to swing at the ball and produce kills. The score was tied at 11-11 after a kill by the Sundevils’ Kianna Duran
That was when Pojoaque started to pull away. Exploiting a weakness in Espanola’s defense, the Elkettes were able to put together a string of runs. Taking leads of 15-11 and then at 20-13, the Elkettes strong service kept Espanola from running any consistent offense. A kill by Maldonado made the score 20-14 ,. Pojoaque scored the next five points as the Sundevils shanked passes and couldn’t get the ball to setter Anita DeAguero. Pojoaque won 25-14 and took a 1-0 lead.
It was a similar story in the second set. Pojoaque led 6-2, but a couple of service errors by the Elkettes allowed the Sundevils to fight their way back. Espanola tied the score at 13-13 after an ace by Duran.
That rally ended abruptly when Pojoaque’s Taylor Quintana went to the service line. Consistently sending her serves deep to the Sundevils’ struggling back row and away from Espanola libero Miranda Salazar, Quintana and the Elkettes put together an 11-point run. With Maldonado stuck in the back row, Pojoaque middle hitter Ashten Martinez was able to dominate at the net. Pojoaque reached set point at 24-13 before Espanola managed to score a point. A kill on the second hit by setter Ayanna Aguirre gave the Elkettes the victory 20=5-14 and a 2-0 lead in the match,
In the third set, Pojoaque’s serving put the Elkettes in control early. After committing four service errors in the first two sets, Pojoaque had none in the third set. Outside hitter Alicia Quintana had some big kills as the Elkettes took leads of 7-1 and 10-2. With the score 12-6, Kiara Martinez had a seven-point run at the service line and Pojoaque led 19-6 as Espanola struggled in its receive of serve. A kill by Alicia Quintana at match point gave the Elkettes a 25-9 victory in the third set and a 3-0 victory in the match.
Ashten Martinez led Pojoaque with 13 kills and Alicia Quintana finished with 12 kills. Taylor Quintana had 24 serves with no errors and produced four of Pojoaque’s 10 service aces. The solid back row of the Elkettes had 66 digs, including 18 by libero Mikayla Padilla.
Pojoaque was coming off an appearance in the Portales Tournament where the Class 4A Elkettes suffered a surprising 3-0 loss to Class 2A Texico High School that exposed a weakness of the Elkettes.
“We weren’t hitting the ball,” Coach Joe Rodriguez said. “That put a lot of pressure on our back row. You can’t do this free-ball stuff.”
Rodriguez said that nerves likely played a part in the Elkettes service errors and Espanola’s ability to stay with the Elkettes early in the first two sets. He expects teams to play tough now that District 2-4A competition has started.
“They were nervous, even I was nervous,” he said. “I expect that from all the teams in our district. I’m glad they (Pojoaque) responded. We need to work on our energy and execution. On putting the ball down.”
Pojoaque hosted Taos High School Thursday in its next District 2-4A match. Espanola faced Moriarty High School Thursday at Moriarty. The Elkettes are 9-4 on the season and 1-0 in District 2-4A. Espanola is now 3-5 overall and 0-1 in District 2-4A.