Belen takes 2nd in tourney, Valencia falls in five sets

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The Belen high volleyball team kicked off its 2013 campaign by hosting the eight-team Belen Eagle Volleyball Tournament while the Valencia Jaguars opened at home against Class 5A Santa Fe last week.

The Eagles opened the season with a successful run at their own Belen Eagle Volleyball Tournament at the Belen High Gym over the weekend.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN BLOCKERS Adrian Baldonado, left, and Maya Trujillo block Aztec’s Samantha Strauss during the Eagles three-set loss to the Tigers in the Belen Eagle Volleyball Tournament last Saturday.

Belen (1-1) earned a No. 2-seed after Friday’s pool play and advanced to the championship match Saturday afternoon with a three-set, 25-18, 25-22, 25-15, win over Laguna-Acoma.

The Eagles were game in the championship against Aztec, but were unable to adjust to the Tigers’ offensive attack, falling in three-sets 25-16, 25-18 and 27-25 Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the way we battled,” said coach Dominick Romero. “We were just there with them, battling toe-to-toe and point-to-point.”

In the first two games, Belen had trouble at the net as Aztec took to tipping and little dink shots over Eagles blockers and were able to get solid serves that put Belen off balance at times.

Belen tightened its defense in game three and played the Tigers evenly as senior Victoria Spragg and junior Tori Morgan begin getting clean hits at the net. The Eagles took a 24-21 lead and seemed poised to take the set, but Aztec rallied to take a 25-24 lead behind the service of junior Aubrey Folk, who also had troubled the Eagles at the net all match long.

Belen tied the set at 25-25, but the Tigers took the next two points to seal the match.

“In games one and two, there were times we’d get a four- or five-point run,” said Romero. “We just didn’t continue it steadily enough. It’ll come with experience. I’m just proud of the way the girls battled.”

Spragg and junior Kaylyn Gomez were named to the all-tournament team along with Folk from Aztec.

The Eagles hosted Highland Tuesday night before traveling to the Roswell Zia Tournament Sept. 13 and 14.

For the first two games against Santa Fe High last Tuesday night, the Valencia High volleyball team played well, winning both games. Then things changed, as the Demonettes roared back, winning three straight games to down the Lady Jags, 3-2 at Valencia High School.

“We woke up the sleeping giant,” said first-year coach Connie Campos, whose team had just played a pre-season scrimmage against Santa Fe the previous weekend. “Their big kids were doing some good things, but I think they took it for granted that they had the height advantage.”

Valencia (0-1) roared out in both of the first two games, taking early leads then fighting off Demonettes rallies to win 25-22 and 25-23.

In those set, the Jaguars’ front court tandem of junior Dayanna Illurralde and senior Brenda Baeza both hit well, scoring multiple kills through blocks and well placed shots that seemed to stun Santa Fe.

With the VHS hitters putting the ball down well, senior setter Kendra Pino and libero Brenda Chavez helped the Lady Jags score in bunches in the first two games, mostly with well-timed tips and dinks.

But Santa Fe (3-2) started set three on a 9-2 run. and eventually won 25-19. The Demonettes raced out to early leads in the next two sets as well, winning 25-12 and 15-5 to take the match.

“We played well for the first two games and then got a little frustrated on those tips,” said Campos. “But I think, overall, we did pretty well.”

The Jaguars next travel to the Moriarity Volleyball Tournament this weekend.