By George Morse
The Espanola Valley High School volleyball team continued to play tough but still has not found the key to winning close sets in their last three matches. The Sundevils lost 26-24, 25-10, 25-18 to District 2-4A rival Los Alamos High School Oct. 24 at Los Alamos to fall to 1-6 in District 2-4A.
The Sundevils were within a point of beating the Hilltoppers in the first set of that match. Leading 24-19 after an ace serve by Dulce Maldonado, the Sundevils couldn’t put Los Alamos away and ended up losing 26-24 to the Hilltoppers.
The Hilltoppers’ Eden Schmierer kept swinging away after her first kill saved one set point and gave Los Alamos the serve. Schmierer had four more kills and Espanola could not stop her. She put down the game-winner and Los Alamos had scored seven unanswered points to snatch a 26-24 victory from the jaws of defeat. With Maldonado stuck in the back row, Espanola had no one to go to for that big kill that could have won them the set.
The demoralized Sundevils didn’t put up much of a fight in the second set and Los Alamos cruised to an easy victory. With a big hole in the middle of the court due to an injury to Roxane Deleon, Espanola does not have a blocker to challenge Los Alamos’ big hitters. The Hilltoppers Natalie Gallegos had 18 kills.
‘We are missing that block,” Espanola Coach JuliAnn Martinez said. “We had to pull one up from the JV (junior varsity).”
The Sundevils did manage to fight back in the third set and tie the score at 18-18, taking advantage of service and hitting errors by the Hilltoppers. Once again, however, Espanola got stuck in a bad rotation. Los Alamos put together another 7-0 run to finish the set and the match.
“Bad passes, bad hits,” Martinez said. “It seems like they just break down.”
It was another match where the Sundevils seemed to be on the verge of victory before suffering another gut-wrenching 3-0 defeat. Against Pojoaque Valley High School Oct. 17, Espanola lost sets one and three by 25-23 scores. Facing Moriarty High School Oct. 22, the Sundevils lost set two 25-23 and lost set three by a 28-26 score. They are not able to get over that hump and win a close set that might give them momentum and confidence.
“We just need to stay aggressive,” Maldonado said. “”Learn how to finish.”
Maldonado is the team’s big hitter. When she is not in the front row, the Sundevils offensive attack is noticeably weaker. Opposing teams are able to take advantage of it.
With just a 4-12 overall record and already out of the District 2-4A race with a 1-6 district record, Espanola’s only hope for a postseason berth is to win the District 2-4A tournament.
“We need to get ready for that,” Maldonado said.
Espanola faces Taos High School Oct. 31 at Espanola in their final regular season game. The Sundevils defeated the Tigers 3-0 Oct. 15 for their lone district win.