Season ends after being swept by No. 5 Mescalero Apache
The Lady Hawks came out sharp and aggressive, but the Lady Chiefs stole the momentum, and the show.
The Class 2A semifinal between No. 2 Dulce High School and No. 5 Mescalero Apache School in the 2019 Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q State Volleyball Championships featured plenty of fireworks from the get-go, and it was ultimately the outcome of game 1 that swayed the match in favor of the Lady Chiefs.
Mescalero pulled off a gutsy comeback after falling behind 2-0 against Peñasco High School earlier in the day to stay alive in the tournament, while still fighting its way through the losers side of the contender’s bracket.
The Lady Chiefs returned to the courts at the Santa Ana Star Center on Nov. 16 just a few hours later, and Mescalero surged past Dulce to advance to the championship match against Texico High School, winning in the fashion of a sweep, 26-24, 25-20, 25-19.
The Lady Hawks couldn’t have asked for a better start to the match. After the first side-out, sophomore Tionne Lovato went on a serving tear, guiding Dulce to a fast 7-0 start behind a whopping six aces.
Mescalero head coach Alice Velasquez called a quick timeout after the first four, then Lovato countered with an additional two, including a let serve on the seventh that found its way to the floor near the net.
Dulce gathered a 23-17 lead near the conclusion of the set, but aggressive serving on the other end by Mescalero’s Samantha Kazhe and strong net play from Fallon Velasquez and Amelia Fatty allowed the Lady Chiefs to storm back and steal the game.
In the final three points, Kazhe recorded an ace, Fallon got a kill from the left side and setter Ramona Fossum tipped home the set-clincher.
“That was crazy,” Kazhe said laughing about serving down the stretch. “I was definitely nervous.”
Dulce led by as many as seven points on four different occasions, making the defeat a tough pill to swallow.
“That really took all the momentum away from us,” Dulce head coach Kathy Salazar-Valdez said. “We came serving hard and that was our plan. We just struggled with keeping leads and executing (while ahead) this whole state tournament.”
Salazar said Mescalero was the team that came more prepared to play, and the Lady Chiefs used multiple hitters in their attack and kept Dulce’s back row coverage and passing out of rhythm for a majority of the match.
“We’re all so diverse and every hitter brings something a little different,” Mescalero senior Fallon Velasquez said. “We’re not afraid to set whoever, even if they’re in the back row.”
Fallon’s mother, coach Velasquez, said her team nearly dug themselves a deep grave to start off the match, but once the Lady Chiefs found their confidence and passed and set with precision, the match was theirs to win.
After a tight, back-and-forth game 2, Mescalero jumped on Dulce early in game 3, building an 8-2 lead off the bat and mounting the first double-digit advantage at 19-9 after a big swing and kill from Alyn Kirgan.
The Lady Hawks responded with a 4-0 run and later crept back within striking distance at 22-16, but that’s the closest they would come to extending the match to a fourth game.
“They say volleyball is about peaks and valleys,” coach Velasquez said. “So, we had a few valleys and we survived those to climb to the peaks. We kind of found some seams in there where their not as effective players were making some coverage mistakes and their big hitter (Caitlin Duncan), she seemed to keep rotating out at the wrong time for them — that gave us a little bit of wind to our sails.”
In its path to the semifinals, Dulce was tested tremendously. The Lady Hawks hadn’t played a five-game match all season, but that changed in both the opening round and in the quarterfinal.
No. 7 Eunice High School jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Dulce in game 5 in the opening-round match on Nov. 14, before falling 16-14 in the end.
The following day, it was No. 3 Hagerman High School’s turn to push Dulce to five sets, and the Lady Bobcats were ousted 15-13 in the decider after Duncan clinched the match with one of her many absolute heavy swings she had over the entire tournament.
“We saw adversity and we adapted (in the first two matches),” Salazar-Valdez said. “It is what it is and it’s nothing more than they (Mescalero) had our number and they played very well. There was limited weak points for them and we had trouble getting a block up. It was a hell of a run and we came in here 22-0 and got to 24-0 last night, but here we are: 24-1.”
The win served as a bit of revenge for Mescalero, who was swept by Dulce in the quarterfinals in last year’s tournament.
“We were hungry and we wanted revenge,” Fallon Velasquez said.
Kazhe couldn’t have agreed more.
“Coming in, we knew we wanted to play Dulce from the start,” she said. “We wanted Dulce bad and it didn’t matter where we got them.”
Mescalero’s run came to an end in the championship match on Nov. 16, as Texico defeated the Lady Chiefs 3-2 (23-25, 25-19, 24-26, 15-11) for its sixth consecutive state championship and blue trophy.
It was Mescalero’s second loss of the tournament to the Lady Wolverines. Texico won in straight sets over the Lady Chiefs (21-6) in the third round of the winner’s bracket on day two of the tournament.