Tigers claim league title, No. 1 seed
While the Los Lunas volleyball team was busy clinching the District 6-4A title Tuesday night, their county rivals Belen and Valencia battled each other at Valencia High for the second-seed in next week’s district tournament.
The Eagles thrilling five-set win over the Jaguars gave Belen (10-8, 5-4 District 6-4A) a lifeline toward a second-place finish in the league.
On Friday, the News-Bulletin will have Web First coverage of tonight’s Los Lunas-Valencia and Belen-Grants matches. Coverage of the first round of play in next week’s district tournament will be in next Thursday’s print edition.
There was no cheering or trophy-raising Tuesday when Los Lunas ((13-6, 9-0) swept through their match with Gallup Miyamura.
The team was off the court almost as quickly as senor hitter Katie Inman’s final tap shot hit the floor to give the Tigers a 25-9, 25-15, 25-13 win over the Patriots, who have just one win on the season.
“They’re kind of business-like, one win at a time and move on,” said a bemused coach Amy Bell.
Not that the team wasn’t happy. They certainly cheered in the privacy of the locker room. But a portion of the team dressed and made a beeline for the door — a small group headed to Valencia High School to watch the Belen-Valencia match.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Bell. “They knew if we won, we’d be he number-one seed in the district tournament so it’s a big win for us.”
That same urgency could be seen in the match against Miyamura, as Inman and sophomore Jordan Holland both had stellar outings, as did sophomore setter Kelsey Bell.
The Tigers substituted reserves liberally throughout, as reserves got plenty of playing time in the win, Los Lunas’ 11th in a row.
“It feels good, I’m just excited for it since it’s my senior year,” said senior Carly Medina. “Our game plan (tonight) was just to stay focused.”
The Tigers host in-town rivals Valencia Thursday night, in what is now a key match for the Jaguars. Admission for the 6 p.m. Halloween match is just $1.
The Belen volleyball team went to five sets for the eighth time this season, clawing back to win the fifth set with four straight kills from senior outside hitter Veronica Spragg to turn away Valencia a second time this month and give themselves a chance at the second seed in next week’s district tournament.
“It seemed like both teams insisted on going to five,” said Belen coach Dominick Romero with a wry smile after the game. “We love challenging ourselves with adversity and testing our mental toughness. We’ve just got to quit doing that.”
In the 25-15, 25-21, 25-27, 18-25, 15-9 win, the Eagles came out quickly behind solid teamwork and the hitting of Spragg and fellow senior Maria Montoya.
Down 24-21 in set three, Valencia rallied behind the hitting of junior Dayanna Iturralde and senior Brenda Baeza, staving off set point four times before forcing an extra-point win.
Valencia (12-6, 6-3) used the momentum to carry them through the fourth set, taking advantage of having Spragg off the net. But Spragg re-asserted herself in the deciding fifth set, slamming down the final four points to give Belen the win.
“We played two bad sets, the last one was one of them,” said VHS coach Connie Campos. “We were just trying to keep the ball away from (Victoria). We didn’t miss too many serves, but the ones we missed came at inopportune times.”
The Belen win sets up a dramatic final night of district play tonight. A Belen win over visiting Grants, coupled with a loss by Valencia at Los Lunas, would give the Eagles the second seed, based on a head-to-head tiebreaker.
The top two seeds get a bye in the tourney and host a semifinal match, set for next Thursday. The third-seeded team hosts its opening match, scheduled for Tuesday, but then must play away from home in Thursday’s semifinal match.