Lady Tigers win five-set thriller over Volcano

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If a volleyball team coming from 2-0 down to win a match is worth its weight in gold, the Los Lunas Lady Tigers left Volcano Vista with a lot of riches Tuesday.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Natalie Baca of Los Lunas spikes the ball in Tuesday’s match at Los Lunas. LLHS overcame a two-games-to-none deficit to win the match, 3-2, and beat Del Norte on Thursday.

The Tigers lost the first games at Volcano before storming back and capping the win with a dramatic finish in game five. Thursday, the Tigers swept Del Norte at home, 3-0.

This week’s games left the Tigers with a 4-1 record.

The Tigers were set to compete Friday after News-Bulletin press time in pool play and the first round of the Tournament of Champions in Santa Fe. The tourney concludes with two matches on Saturday.

Los Lunas is scheduled to host Atrisco Heritage Academy on Tuesday, and to play at Albuquerque High on Thursday. Both matches are scheduled for about 6:30 p.m.

Los Lunas 3, Volcano Vista 2

The visiting Class 4A Tigers, who hadn’t played a match in 14 days, struggled early with the 5A Hawks (3-4), especially in passing and avoiding blocks. However, the Tigers made just enough back-row passes and made intelligent plays at the net to win, 16-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-23, 17-15.

“Volcano is scrappy, and plays tough defense,” said LLHS coach Leah Newton. “I give them a lot of credit. This win shows what our team is all about — they challenge themselves.”

The Tigers only trailed 13-12 in game one before surrendering 12 of the last 13 points. In game two, LLHS looked confused and had several mis-hits as the Hawks blocked hits at will and pulled away late.

Volcano didn’t look as strong in game three, and the Tigers’ back row began to improve. Los Lunas blew open what had been only a 15-11 lead.

Game four was close the entire way. With junior Carley Medina serving, the Tigers turned a 20-18 deficit into a 23-20 lead, aided by a Teige Zeller kill. Mykayla Moody’s kill ended the game, tying the match 2-2.

In game five, Los Lunas seemed to be in control, but back row problems and a fiery rally by Volcano erased what had been Tiger leads of 5-0, 8-2 and 13-7. Los Lunas was up 14-9 on a Natalie Baca block and was serving for the match, but the Hawks won the next six points and had a match point of their own, leading the Tigers 15-14.

However, a Medina kill, a Moody tip and a bad pass by Volcano gave Los Lunas the 17-15 win.

“It’s stressful trying to keep it together for five games,” said Medina, one of several first-year varsity Tigers. “But this is a big improvement for us. I have to keep working hard, and we all do. We’re gaining confidence.”

—Jason W. Brooks

Los Lunas 3 Del Norte 0

Los Lunas put together a very complete performance in sweeping Del Norte 25-18, 25-19 and 25-19 on Thursday night.

Behind the senior leadership of MyKayla Moody and the talent of freshman Kelsey Bell, the Tigers are rounding into mid-season thanks to what Moody calls a “tight-knit team attitude.”

“I think our team chemistry has gotten better. We are always hanging out and eating together. It is really fun,” said Moody. “Like last year, we always keep our cheers going loud and never get down.”

Los Lunas never trailed, although Del Norte closed the gap late in each of the three games of the match.

Moody had two straight kills, followed by Teige Zeller’s kill that gave Los Lunas a 19-12 lead. Del Norte closed the gap to 22-17 before Los Lunas put it away on Moody’s winning point.

Moody got four of the last five points in the second game as Los Lunas won 25-19.

The closest Del Norte got in the final game was 16-14.

The best volley of the night came early in the third game. Los Lunas freshman Kelsey Bell spun the ball gently over the Del Norte front line for the point. Los Lunas led 7-3 on the way to 25-19 win.

“They saved it and I knew they were not ready for the ball to come back over yet,” said Bell of the artistic shot. “I thought it might be a good time to just stick it over the net.”

“All the players are really supportive of me because they know I am a freshman,” said Bell, who is feeling more comfortable in the offense.

Tiger coach Newton thinks the girls learned a lot from the close call and rally at Volcano Vista. Los Lunas was down two games to none before pulling out a five-set victory.

“We talked about learning from every match and getting better from every match,” said Newton. “We learned we need to come out stronger and go for it right away. When we go deeper into games we have a lot of girls that can really step up.”