St. Mike’s Slips Past Española

Española’s Chloe Fell passes the ball as Libero Meranda Romero and Dominique Archuleta watch against St. Michael’s. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily post

St. Mike’s Slips Past Española

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School volleyball team showed flashes of how good a team they can be in their opening match of the season against St. Michael’s High School Aug. 30 at Española. Despite these bursts of stellar play, the Lady Sundevils couldn’t match the consistently strong effort of the Lady Horsemen. St. Michael’s prevailed 28-26, 25-27, 25-211, 25-20 to take a 3-1 win.

“We’re close to being a good team,” Española Coach Damon Salazar said. “We’re just not consistent to be good.”

Although outside hitters Chloe Fell had 16 kills and Dulce Maldonado 11 kills, the Sundevils hitting proved inconsistent. St. Michael’s played solid defense and let the Sundevils make mistakes. When those mistakes happened, Española would lose the edge that they once had.

“They’d start to pout on the court,” Coach Salazar said. “You can’t do that. The other team is not going to let up.”

The Sundevils were playing well in the first set and had a 20-16 lead.  St. Michael’s rallied and tied the game at 20-20 thanks to some hitting errors by Española. After the score was tied 23-23, a block by Cheyanne Martinez gave the Sundevils game point. St. Mike’s came back to tie the score. After a St. Michael’s service error gave Española another game point, but the Sundevils gave it right back to St. Michael’s by hitting their serve into the net. A kill by Fell gave Española its third game point, but the Lady Horsemen survived again on a tip kill by Molly Maestas tied the score. When it was St. Michael’s turn to reach game point 27-26, the Lady Horsemen didn’t let it slip away. A kill by Maestas gave tSt. Michael’s the game.

Española finally put it all together in the second set. Down 23-17, a kill by Fell gave Española the serve. Libero Meranda Romero stepped to the line. Her serves proved difficult for St. Michael’s to handle and with Fell swinging away on the outside, the Sundevils rattled off  six straight points. Romero had an ace and Fell had four kills during the run. Española  led 24-23 and had game point. St. Michael’s tied the score.

It was the Sundevils turn to fight off a game point when St. Michael’s took a 25-24 lead. Two kills by Fell and the Sundevils were back at game point. The shaken Lady Horsemen hit the ball out-of-bounds and Española had a 27-25 victory. That tied the match at a game apiece.

“Meranda (Romero) got them out of system,” Coach Salazar said. “The tempo was a little bit better. It looked like we were there.”

The momentum carried the Sundevils through the first half of the third set and Española led 13-8 and looked like they had found their groove. The consistent Horsemen kept chipping away and sending the ball back over the net. A service erroe by Española, followed by a hitting error and a kill by St. Michael’s put the horsemen ahead 16-15 and after that the action seesawed back and forth. A kill by Fell and another by Autumn Martinez tied the score 21-21. After a kill by Maestas gave St. Michael’s the lead, confusion at the net by Española resulted in a traffic jam and the ball fell to  the floor. The awkward sequence seemed to shake up the Sundevils and St. Michael’s went on to take a 25-21 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.

​Española’s Autumn Martinez goes for a kill against St. Michael’s. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“St. Michael’s is a good defensive team,” Coach Salazar said. “They don’t let the ball land. We played at St. Michael’s tempo.”

In the fourth set, the Lady Horsemen started serving the ball short and that seemed to shake up the Sundevils, who appeared to be unsure who should take the ball. That left their hitters out of position and St. Michael’s reeled off a run of five points to take an 8-3 lead, then a seven-point run to take a 16-5 lead. Española tried to rally after St. Michael’s took a 20-11 lead, but it was too much to overcome and St. Michael’s held on for a 25-20 victory after an Española service error at game and match point.

Romero had an outstanding game as libero, recording 50 digs.

“She played well,” Coach Salazar said. “That shows me I have one of the better libero’s in the district.”

The Sundevils faced another top team from Class 4A Friday when they faced Hope Christian High Scoll in Española.