WEB EXCLUSIVE: Tigers tame Aztec in 1st round of 4A State Volleyball

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RIO RANCHO – Little known fact: The Los Lunas volleyball team has a Jeckyl and Hyde personality, according to senior outside hitter Katie Inman.

“Team A is the good team and Team B is… not so good,” she said with a smile Thursday afternoon.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS' Jordan Holland (2) and Carley Medina (3) go for a block during the Tigers' 3-0 win over Aztec in the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament Thursday in Rio Rancho.

Team A showed up against Aztec and swept the northern Tigers away with a strong 3-0 sweep in the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center.

It was a quick moving match that featured LLHS playing some of its strongest volleyball of the season according to Tigers coach Amy Bell, winning their first round match 25-13, 25-23, 25-22.

“I am so proud of our girls – we had to fight and battle,” Bell said. “I thought that was the best match of the whole season. At state you have to be able to put together a complete match and that was as close as we’ve come to putting together a complete match all season.”

The Tigers advance to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Albuquerque Academy.

Los Lunas (16-6) came into the match seeded No. 10 in the tourney but finishing third in Pool B play against No. 2 Goddard and No. 7 Farmington early Thursday morning. The Tigers played both teams even, but fell to third because of the tie-breaker, said Bell. No. 12 Aztec finished ranked No. 2 in Pool D.

The Tigers exited pool play disappointed, but Inman said Bell talked to them after the morning session.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: SENIOR KATIE INMAN of Los Lunas hits against Aztec in Thursday's First Round of the Class 4A State Tournament.å

“(Coach) kept reiterating ‘It’s just pool play and it doesn’t matter,’” Inman said. “We shook it off and came out stronger.”

Stronger is an understatement. Los Lunas traded shots early with Aztec, but were clearly energized. Up 10-9, the Tigers surged forward on a 10-0 run fuled by the tight service of sophomore Kelsey Bell and deft hitting by seniors Inman and Carley Medina.

Aztec salvaged a few points but LLHS swept to set point as the northern Tigers crumpled under the pressure of Bell’s serves.

Aztec rallied in set 2, taking a 6-2 lead before Los Lunas found its bearings, shifting to a more finesse type of play at the net, which vexed Aztec. The southern Tigers again surged on the service of Bell and hitting of Inman to take a 20-16 lead then battled with Aztec, taking the second set point on a service error to win set 2.

“When you let a team like Aztec step up and hit it they can really get on a roll,” Amy Bell said. “But we really did a good job of staying on our feet, getting in position and getting a pass up.”

Aztec again came out fast in set three, going up leading 31 then 9-6 before Los Lunas rallied yet again, going on an 8-2 run powered by critical kills by sophomore Jordan Holland and Kelsey Bell as the Tigers went up 14-11.Aztec rallied again behind the hitting of 6-2 junior hitter Aubrey Folk and eventually took a 21-20 lead.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS' Kelsey Bell (1), Alyssa Vigil (5) and Carley Medina (4) celebrate winning match point against Aztec during the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament

But Los Lunas rallied behind a Holland kill, a pair of aces by freshman Miranda Jaramillo and wrapped them match on a pair of tip winners by Inman.

Coach Bell had nothing but praise for her team following the match.

“Carley is a senior and she came up big on defense,” Bell said. “Our middles played amazing. Kim (Duran) and Mariah (Doyle) helped us tremendously with their serves and Kelsey did a great job of getting the right people at the right time. It was a total team effort.”

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