State volleyball: Jags, Tigers swept by St. Pius

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After getting bounced in pool play by defending state champion Artesia, St. Pius swept through two Valencia County teams to reach the semifinals in the 2012 Rudy’s Bar-B-Que State Class 4A Volleyball Championships held this week at the Santa Ana Star Center.

Valencia proved no match for the Sartan net game Thursday night and fell in straight sets in the opening round match.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: NATALIE BACA, right, skies for a kill attempt in one of Thursday’s state-tournament pool play games against Goddard. Her Los Lunas team won all four pool play games to earn a first-round bye. The Tigers lost, 3-0, on Friday to St. Pius, the same opponent that eliminated Valencia in Thursday’s first round.

Los Lunas, who went undefeated in pool play, couldn’t handle St. Pius passing game in the quarterfinals Friday morning and fell in three games to the No. 4-seed Sartans.

St. Pius 3, Los Lunas 0

In Friday morning’s quarterfinal match the Tigers struggled with passing from the beginning and gave the Sartans too many free-ball opportunities.

The result was a sweep by the No. 4-seed St. Pius, 25-17, 25-14 and 25-14.

Los Lunas fell behind 20-10 in the first game and the rally fell eight points short.

“St. Pius did a good job of mixing up its sets and using all of its hitters,” said Los Lunas coach Leah Newton. “We gave them too many free-balls and they made us pay for those.

“We needed ball control and we needed to take them out of their system. When we did that, we were successful.”

St. Pius took leads midway through the second and third games with its quick sets doing the most damage. The Tigers had some success when they got the Sartans out of position, but the passing struggles were too much to overcome.

“We definitely hoped to build off being in the quarterfinals two years in a row,” Newton said. “We are not satisfied with this.”

Los Lunas finishes the year with losses in their last two matches, against St. Pius and Valencia (District 6-4A championship), to fall to 19-3.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Alexis MontaÑo reaches for a spike attempt over Albuquerque Academy defenders in Thursday’s Class 4A state tournament action. Valencia’s first state-tourney appearance ended Thursday with a 3-0 first-round loss to St. Pius.

St. Pius 3, Valencia 0

Valencia was able to keep pace with the Sartans in the early going of each set, but the St. Pius net play would eventually dominate and Valencia fell in straight sets, 25-16, 25-16 and 25-14.

The Jaguars were within 16-14 in the first set, but Lauren Roveto served five straight points at the end to give the Sartans a 25-16 first set win.

In the second set, Peyton Linthicum started a Jag rally with a kill that drew Valencia within 9-7. Senior Aizlinn Guiterrez’s ace gave Valencia a 10-9 lead.

But Valencia was not able to withstand six straight points from the serve of Julia Landavazo to break a 14-all tie. St. Pius won 25-16 on an 11-2 set-ending run.

The closest Valencia got in the final set was 14-12. St. Pius went on an 11-2 run to close it out, 25-14.

Jag coach Karen Vanessa Chavez was proud of her team and their efforts to get to the Jags’ first-ever state volleyball tournament experience.

“We were absolutely so excited to do what we did in district and come to state. Our team work is so tight that the girls love to play together,” said the Valencia coach.

Chavez noted that her team faced quality competition in No. 2 Albuquerque Academy and No. 7 Roswell in pool play; and then No. 4 St. Pius in the first round.

“We really used that momentum to come into state,” Chavez said. “We played teams in the top 10 through our seeding. We did not see one team below the top 10.”

Chavez complimented the leadership of the six seniors, Aizlinn Guiterrez, Julia Herrera, Tori Torres, Caroline Lucero, Aries Marquez and Alexis Montaño, who all got to experience the state tournament in their final year for the Jags.

“The seniors on our team are the heart of our program,” said Chavez. “They played wonderful. They helped and encouraged the younger girls and they will help to keep that legacy going on into next year.”

“My senior season was great,” said Herrera. “I would not have it any other way. I love my team. We have come further than any other team has at our school.”

Torres and Guiterrez explained that the team had grown close over the season.

“We performed well and we played well,” said Torres. “We became a big family. I would want to do this with any other group of people.”

“I am so proud of all of the girls on the team and how far we have come this year and how we were able to prove people wrong; because we got here to state for the first time with this team,” Guiterrez said.

Marquez reflected on how quickly the senior season went by.

“My senior season went by super fast,” said Marquez. “It was really amazing to get to state with some of my best friends. We are a family and just getting this far is just amazing.”

Valencia finished the season with a 19-5 record.

“I am very proud of the girls and the way that they played,” said Chavez, emotionally concluding the season. “It showed the very good people that they are way down in the thieir hearts.”

Los Lunas pool play

The No. 6-seed Tigers vastly improved their position over the last two state tournament appearances by sweeping all four games, including two upsets over the No. 3-seed Goddard.

Katie Inman got back-to-back points to crush Goddard’s comeback attempt in game one and give Los Lunas a 21-16 edge. The Tigers went on to a 25-19 stunning upset of the Rockets.

In the second set, Los Lunas jumped out to a 15-10 edge. The Tigers got four straight service points from Carley Medina to break a 19-all tie. Senior Mykayla Moody scored the set-winning point with a lofting shot that fell just out of reach for the Goddard front three. Los Lunas had completed the pool play run, 25-22.

“It feels great and it is awesome, but it is not over,” said Newton following her Tigers’ stunning upset. “We will celebrate and watch the first round, because we have a bye. Then it is back to business.”

The Tigers had to dig deep to beat Farmington in the first set, 25-23. The Scorpions scored eight straight points to build a 17-11 lead. They extended the edge to 23-18 before the Tigers reeled off the next seven points to take a two-point win.

In the second set, freshman Kelsey Bell got a diving save right under the net and somehow placed it on the Farmington side to put the Tigers up, 23-14. Bell’s athletic play was part of a 10-3 run at the end to give the Tigers a 25-14 win.

Los Lunas’ upset was one of three in pool play. Only top-seed Piedra Vista won their pool and advanced with a bye to the quarterfinals. No. 7 Roswell beat No. 2 Albuquerque Academy and No. 5 Artesia upset No. 4 St. Pius to join Los Lunas as lower seeds advancing with a bye.

Valencia pool play

Both Roswell and Academy swept Valencia in pool play.

Academy went on a 10-3 run to finish off the first game, 25-14.

The No. 2-seed Chargers won handily in the second game 25-15. Valencia was in the game early, trailing only 9-8 before Academy reeled off a 10-2 run to take control, 19-10.

Guiterrez rallied the Jaguars to tie Roswell in the first set, 21-all. But the four straight service points to get Valencia even was for naught as the Coyotes closed it out, 25-21.

Roswell controlled the second set, winning 25-20.