Jaguars push past Patriots, Eagles await in semifinals

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No. 3 Valencia opened the District 6-4A Tournament Tuesday by beating No. 6 Gallup Miyamura in three straight sets, but coach Connie Campos was not entirely happy with the win at home.

“This type of match is hard to play,” said Campos. “I told the kids, ‘They have everything to gain and we have everything to lose.’

“At he beginning, I told them ‘to advance, we have to play well.’ They kind of relaxed at times,” Campos said.

The Jaguars beat the Patriots 25-12, 25-9, 25-22, taking advantage of numerous Miyamura mistakes, as well as stellar serving and play at the net. But the Jaguars seemed to relax in set three and the Patriots took a 10-5 lead before the Jags rallied, steadily chipping away at the Miyamura lead until the Jags trailed just 18-16.

Valencia then finished the set and match with a 9-5 run, fueled mostly by the play at the net of juniors Dayanna Iturralde and Mallory Munson, to claim the win.

“It was a good effort, except the last game,” said senior outside hitter Brenda Baeza. “But to get back and go into Belen with confidence we needed to pick it up (in set three).”

The Jags started set one strong, tallying nine of their 16 service aces in the game and getting great setting from senior Kendra Pino and hitting from Munson, Ituraralde and Baeza.

Miyamura showed a little more fight in set two, tying the set at 9-9 before Valencia (13-7) went on a 16-point run, fueled by the great serving of Pino, who had five service aces, including two straight to end the set.

The Jaguars now face cross-county rivals, No. 2 seed Belen (11-8), tonight at Belen High while Los Lunas entertains the winner of Tuesday’s match between No. 4 Gallup and No. 5 Grants.

Valencia pushed Belen to five sets in both matches this season, but ultimately lost both, due largely to the efforts of the Eagles’ senior outside hitter and future University of New Mexico player Victoria Spragg. Baeza said keeping Spragg from being a factor is one of the keys to tonight’s match.

“I think we need to have confidence that we can play with them (Belen) and we can beat them,” Baeza said. “Confidence is key.”