Volleyball: Wins by VHS, Lady Tigers set up 6-4A tourney

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Many of the important events in this year’s District 6-4A high school volleyball race happened prior to this week. However, each one of this week’s matches helped sort some things out as the regular season came to a close.

Since Valencia High was ruled by its school district athletic department to have scheduled too many matches, the Lady Jaguars forfeited Thursday’s scheduled rivalry match against the Los Lunas Lady Tigers, and the match was not played. Los Lunas, which won at Miyamura 3-0 on Tuesday, is the regular-season 6-4A champion for the third straight year with a 19-1 overall mark, and 10-0 in district play.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Brenda Baeza blocks the attempt of Belen’s Maggie Baca at BHS on Tuesday. The Lady Jaguars won 3-0 at Belen, and the District 6-4A tournament starts Tuesday with Belen visiting Grants for a 7 p.m. match. Valencia is idle until Thursday, when the No. 2-seeded Jags will host the winner from the early rounds.

Valencia won at Belen in straight games, 3-0, on Tuesday. With the forfeit loss, the Jaguars finish district play 17-3 overall and 8-2 in 6-4A.

Belen, which went on to fall Thursday at Grants by a 3-1 score, finishes in fifth place at 3-7 in district and 7-12 overall.

The district tournament begins this Tuesday, with all tourney matches at 7 p.m. per the District 6-4A handbook

Belen visits Grants on Tuesday, while Gallup hosts Miyamura in the single-elimination tourney. Wednesday, the winners of Tuesday’s matches play at the school of the higher seed Wednesday night’s winner plays Thursday at Valencia in the semifinals.

This week’s LLHS wins were the 16th and 17th consecutive victories for the Tigers. Los Lunas, which is 30-0 in 6-4A regular-season matches since joining the district, is set to host the 6-4A championship match on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Los Lunas clinched an automatic state-tournament berth by winning the regular-season title. Valencia seems to have an excellent chance of being selected at-large for what would be its first-ever state-tournament appearance, whereas the other four teams would likely have to win the 6-4A tourney championship to get into state.

The Tigers will have 10 days in between Tuesday’s Miyamura trip and the 6-4A title match.

“We plan to continue to work hard in all areas,” said LLHS coach Leah Newton, “and continue to improve as a team.”

News-Bulletin file photo: Melissa Gamez of Los Lunas reaches for a dig in an early season match. The Lady Tigers won at Miyamura on Tuesday and will be idle until hosting the District 6-4A championship match on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Valencia 3, Belen 0

At Belen on Tuesday, the visiting Jaguars came from behind in all three games, winning, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.

The Jaguars got solid court coverage when they needed it most, along with reliable blocking.

The first game was neck-and-neck the entire time, with the Jaguars simply making fewer mistakes than the Eagles at the end. Their most impressive effort was when the Jags overcame a 22-17 deficit in the second game, scoring the final eight points of the set.

Valencia and Belen traded the lead and the momentum in the third game, and after going up 24-18, the Jaguars had to stave off a furious rally by the determined Eagles at the end.

After Belen scored five straight points to close the gap to 24-23, the Eagles and their fans were fired up. But on the next point, the Eagles had a bad pass and hit into the net giving the Jags the 25-23 win.

In fact, the quality of the Belen passing game made a big difference in the Eagles’ surges and struggles, as the BHS front line made solid plays. Six-foot-four-inch junior Victoria Spragg had 16 kills in the match.

The Jaguar front line was consistent as well, and the VHS coaching staff praised several players, including freshman middle hitter Peyton Linthicum.

“What we’ve learned is that is no matter who we’re playing, if we’ve got each others’ backs, and play with heart, we can win,” said Linthicum. “Against Belen, that was about the strongest we’d played on the net all year.”

Jaguar coach Karen Vanessa Chavez, who was suspended for last week’s Grants match after the over-scheduling situation, said her team’s unity is one of its greatest assets.

“Before the last game, our team prayed beforehand, that we could win this match together,” said Chavez.

Los Lunas 3, Miyamura 0

In Gallup on Tuesday, the Tigers got more resistance than they had in the past from the district’s last-place team, the Lady Patriots (5-13, 1-8).

The Tigers won by scores of 25-18, 25-19 and 25-16. In the Tigers’ sweep of the Patriots at LLHS on Oct. 11, Miyamura didn’t score more than 15 points in a game.

“Miyamura played tough defense,” said Newton. “They kept the rally going. They pushed us to work hard on all parts of play, and helped prepare us in showing us the type of determination we’ll see from all the other teams we’ll face — from here on out.”

Katie Inman had 12 kills and four blocks in the match for Los Lunas, while teammate Mykayla Moody had 11 kills. Freshman setter Kelsey Bell had 34 assists and only two ball handling errors, and Bell and Isabella Olguin each had four aces.

Grants 3, Belen 1

At Grants on Thursday, the visiting Eagles pulled out of the three close games in the match, but needed to finish the first two.

Grants (6-13, 4-6) won the first two games by 25-23 and 26-24 scores. The Eagles won the third game, 27-25, but dropped the next one, 25-13.

The outcome made Belen the fifth-place team in 6-4A and meant the Eagles will most likely be on the road throughout the district tournament.


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