Coronado High School volleyball coach Henry Gettler said a one-loss season would bring nothing but questions about that one, single loss. He also said, “If you have a three-loss season, then people say, ‘Well, you had a pretty good year.’”
The Lady Leopards — winners of their first 21 matches — ended one of the best season’s in school history losing their final three outings, including two matches in the 2019 Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q State Volleyball Championships at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
No. 6 Coronado (21-3) was upset in the first round, falling to No. 11 Magdalena 3-2 (23-25, 14-25, 25-20, 25-10, 4-15) to open the tournament on Nov. 14, followed by a 3-0 (23-25, 14-25, 21-25) loss to No. 4 Pecos on Nov. 15 in the contender’s bracket on the losers side.
“The common denominator was we played two teams with very good tournament experience,” Gettler said. “Experience coming into this tournament is huge; that’s the first thing. Second thing, both teams hit the ball more consistently than what we had seen all year. When teams can put the ball over the net with some velocity mixed with our lack of height at the net, some of the things we’re not very good at got exposed.”
In both loses, another common denominator that plagued Coronado was inconsistent hands and defensive coverage at the setter position. Gettler said that area of the game had been very below average over the final two weeks of the season, and it proved to be a killer in both losses to Magdalena and Pecos, as well as the District 5-2A tournament championship loss to Peñasco High School.
“God bless America, it was nowhere near where it had to be,” Gettler said. “We couldn’t get enough sets up to get balls down consistently."
Against the Lady Steers, Coronado played it’s way into a 2-0 deficit off the bat but fought all the way back to force a game 5. However, things quickly got out of hand in the decider. Magdalena opened the set on a 7-0 run, which was aided by plenty of Lady Leopard mistakes.
Gettler was forced to call two timeouts by the time the score reached 6-0 after Coronado suffered two serve receive errors and two attack errors, quickly handing four points to the Lady Steers.
Magdalena built the lead as large as 10-2 in game 5, leaving no hope for the Lady Leopards to complete their comeback. Coronado finished with just two kills in that game, which again, coincided with inconsistent setting.
“We had everything going for us in games 3 and 4," Gettler said. " We had the rhythm, we had balls going over for us and we had some serviceable setting going on. We just started game 5 and it was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.’ Before we knew it, it was, ‘over, over, over, over.’”
The Lady Leopards finished the match with 61 total errors, with the large sum of 41 coming from their hitters.
Coronado played its finest in games 3 and 4, all while Magdalena head coach Sara Sue Olney saw bad habits resurface in those sets that defined the Lady Steers’ 1-7 start to the season.
When it came down to crunch time in game 5, Magdalena just had to trust the process that helped aid their turnaround in the season’s second half -- winning 11 of the last 13 matches before the state tournament.
“We’ve been a team known to sometimes give up on ourselves early in the season, and you saw that in the middle two games today,” Olney said. “We trusted the process and we had no pressure on our shoulders, honestly. We were in here as the 11 (seed) with a, ‘Whatever happens, happens,’ type of attitude.”
What did happen for Magdalena was the Lady Steers made it to the second round of the contender’s bracket after defeating Estancia High School but were then swept by Peñasco.
Gettler said the experience at state was a tough, but very good learning experience for his team, who graduates seniors Sulema Archuleta, Jaylene Jacquez and Janessa Madrid from the 12-player roster.
Outside hitters Raegan Cordova and Jazmyn Delgado and setter Hailey Martinez — all juniors — will return as the core nucleus in 2020.
“Its hard because everyone loses their last game, unless you’re one of the five teams here that wins,” Gettler said. “The last three games, we had a huge setting issue. We had no consistency and 80 percent of it was strictly setting. 20 percent of it was missing passes, and we’ve missed those passes all year, but you didn’t see it a lot because we didn’t play a lot of teams that hit the ball down so consistently.”