Lady Jaguars edge Belen to improve to 4-0 in 6-4A

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Thursday night’s District 6-4A volleyball match at Valencia High was more than just another win for the home team. For the visitors, it was their second five-game loss in three nights.

Valencia’s dramatic 3-2 win over Belen made the host Lady Jaguars 4-0 in District 6-4A and 12-2 overall.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Kaylyn Gomez, left, and Erica Sluder try to block against Valencia’s Peyton Linthicum in Thursday’s match. Valencia edged Belen, 3-2, Thursday and won at Grants on Tuesday to set up a 6:30 p.m., District 6-4A showdown at Los Lunas this Tuesday.

Tuesday, Valencia won 3-1 at Grants, and Belen (5-8, 3-2) blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss at Miyamura in Gallup.

One of Valencia’s two losses this season was to Los Lunas (14-1, 4-0), who beat VHS in an early-season tournament. This Tuesday, Los Lunas will host the Jags in their first 6-4A meeting of the year at about 6:30 p.m. at LLHS.

Unlike some of the matches in previous seasons against Los Lunas, there seems to be less pressure for Valencia to get its first-ever district win over the Tigers. The Jaguars still want to win, of course, but the idea of simply avoiding a loss in a rivalry doesn’t seem to be their approach this time.

“We’re more relaxed going into playing them,” said Valencia junior blocker Brenda Baeza. “We know what they do, and they know what we do. And we know what we have to do to beat them.”

Los Lunas has beaten Valencia in seven of their eight meetings, with the Jags winning a 3-2 thriller in the championship of the 2011 Belen Invite.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the second rotation of 6-4A matches begins. Valencia will host Gallup, and Belen will play at Los Lunas.

Valencia 3, Belen 2

In Thursday’s match, Belen won the first game, 30-28, overcoming a long run of points that came while Baeza was serving. Valencia won the second game, 26-24, and Belen won the third game by the same score.

VHS took the fourth game, 25-17, but had a 12-point lead before Belen got a few points at the end. The Jaguars held on to win the fifth game, 15-12.

Game two was halted when Belen junior Brittany Padilla suffered a seizure and fell to the court during a timeout. She was later able to stand and was helped off the court, and was taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation.

The fifth game featured something each team had all night — inconsistent play along the back row, and trouble returning serves. When Valencia struggled with passing, Belen took a 9-6 lead, but aided by the strong serving of Aizlinn Gutierrez, Valencia scored eight straight points to go up 14-9.

Belen scraped together a couple of points, but the front line of the Jaguars was too tough. VHS sophomore hitter Dayanna Iturralde had several powerful kills in the match, including a couple during the Jags’ eight-point run in game five.

“Dayanna has become more a part of the team, and we’ve learned to trust her more as a leader,” said Baeza.

“Dayanna attacks well, and plays good defense,” said VHS coach Karen Vanessa Chavez. “And she’s learning from Aizlinn, who plays the same (outside hitter) position. And she is improving so fast.”

The Eagles rallied several times in the match, with thunderous kills by 6-foot, 3-inch junior Spragg and some impressive digs. But the majority of the useful blocks were by the Jaguars, and VHS was, overall, better at returning serves.

Belen’s Keiana Sanchez-Chavez didn’t play this week due to an injury. The two teams meet again at BHS on Oct. 30.

Valencia 3, Grants 1

Tuesday at Grants, the improved front line of the Pirates was able to help the hosts win one game, but Valencia prevailed, 25-20, 25-16, 17-25, 25-13. The Pirates fell to 6-6 overall, 1-2 in 6-4A with the loss.

“In every match, we challenge ourselves to play with the intensity we know we can play with,” said Chavez.

Miyamura 3, Belen 2

In Gallup on Tuesday, the host Lady Patriots earned their first District 6-4A match victory in the two-year-plus history of the league, at the expense of the visiting Lady Eagles.

Belen won games one and two, 25-14 and 25-22, before the Patriots (5-7, 1-2) came storming back. The hosts won the final three games by 25-14, 25-14 and 15-8 scores.

For Belen, the match marked the return of a pair of seniors, setter Lorena Chavira and middle blocker Erica Sluder, who had been out with injuries.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.