Lady Jags, Los Lunas represented county volleyball at state

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Even though two Valencia County volleyball teams didn’t make it as far at the state tournament as they were hoping, the county was well-represented at the state tourney this year.

The 2012-13 Class 4A state volleyball tournament marked the first time in memory two teams from Valencia County qualified. Both Los Lunas and Valencia were eliminated by eventual state champion St. Pius. Pictured at left, Kristie Sandoval of Los Lunas goes up for a block in Friday morning’s quarterfinal. At right, Gabby Calderon takes a swing in last Thursday’s first-round match.

The 2012 tourney marked the first time in recent memory there was more than one county high school volleyball team at state. The Los Lunas Lady Tigers and Valencia Lady Jaguars both were eliminated by the same team, St. Pius, which went on to win the state championship.

Los Lunas finished the season with a 19-3 record. The Tigers’ second-year coach, Leah Newton, said her team wants to advance beyond the state-quarterfinal round where its last two seasons have ended.

“We’re not satisfied with this,” said Newton. “We want to build off of this, and keep going. We want to set even higher goals, and achieve them.”

The Tigers, the No. 6 seed, forged impressive wins in pool-play games Thursday over the No. 3 seed, Goddard, and Farmington High to earn a bye and skip the first round.

Valencia, the No. 10 seed, lost all four of its pool play matches, and was swept in Thursday night’s first round by St. Pius, seeded No. 4. That ended the first state-tourney appearance in the Jaguars’ four-year history.

Los Lunas drew St. Pius in Friday morning’s quarterfinal, and the Tigers were swept by the Lady Sartans.

St. Pius went on to sweep Los Alamos in Friday afternoon’s semifinals, and outlasted No. 1 seed Piedra Vista in five games in Saturday’s championship match.

The Sartans finally broke through this year in a way Los Lunas and Valencia hope to do in the seasons ahead; St. Pius lost the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 championship matches before winning Saturday.

Valencia’s District 6-4A championship match victory over Los Lunas was a big victory for the Jaguar players, second-year coach Karen Vanessa Chavez, and Valencia High in general. Both teams tried to take positive energy into the state tournament.

VHS had T-shirts printed and sold to commemorate their first district tourney title. Chavez wrote the word “believe” on the back of a notepad at the district title match, and even held it up for a team photo with the district trophy.

“The whole concept is, ‘We believe we can win today,’” she explained.


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