Los Alamos, Hope Christian hand Pojoaque state tournament losses
If one word were needed to define the 2019 Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q State Volleyball Championships for the Pojoaque Valley High School volleyball team, then that word would probably be “familiarity.”
The Elkettes entered the Class 4A tournament as the tenth seed, and their run at the Santa Ana Star Center was short-lived, as Pojoaque was handed defeats by two opponents who were far from strangers.
No. 7 Los Alamos High School defeated the Elkettes in the tournament opener, winning 3-1 (21-25, 25-13, 25-9, 25-20) on Nov. 14. It was Pojoaque’s third matchup with its District rival this season — which all resulted in losses – but it very well could have been the fifth meeting. The teams were almost forced to play a regular season tiebreaker, while also almost meeting in the District 2-4A tournament championship.
Pojoaque returned to the Star Center the following morning on Nov. 15, and were clipped 3-0 (25-15, 25-9, 25-10) by Hope Christian School, a team the Elkettes had defeated in the Santa Fe Tournament of Champions final and lost to in the regular season.
“Our energy and our execution just wasn’t there the past two days,” Pojoaque head coach Joe Rodriguez said. “That’s part of the coaching life, but Hope came out and they executed, and they wanted it more.”
The Eighth-seeded Huskies proved they were no pushover in their loss to top seed St. Pius X in their second match of the tournament’s first day. After defeating Silver High School in the opening round, Hope was ousted in straight sets by the Lady Sartans but played competitive throughout.
Against Pojoaque, Hope used a combination of an aggressive offensive attack, a deep rotation and a lead foot in relation to the scoreboard.
The Lady Huskies built double-digit leads in all three games it took to complete the match.
“We really had our pieces come together after a tough match yesterday morning (against Silver) and a tough loss (St. Pius) in the afternoon,” Hope head coach Sara Branch said. “Any time you play an opponent (again) we take notes and we know who does what because girls have the same habits. When you see them a couple times and see them again, you hope you can crack down on those things.”
Branch said in the Tournament of Champions loss to Pojoaque, her team continually was burnt on tips, off-speed attacks and had a tough time covering the corners. However, this time, she credited her team’s ability to cover all four corners of the court as to one of the big reasons to Pojoaque’s offensive struggle.
“Our front row and our back row locked it down this game,” Branch said. “We couldn’t have covered the four corners any better.”
In game 3, the Elkettes lost the battle of serving and serve receive almost immediately. Hope recorded seven aces in the set, which began from the game’s very first two points coming from the arm of the Lady Huskies’ Liz Cheshire.
Lauren Trejo had a run of three consecutive aces, with the last pushing Hope’s lead to 8-2 and turning the set into a familiar story as the first two. Jaylee Gonzales also had two aces in the set and Hope ended game 5 on a 5-0 run.
“Serve receive absolutely killed us in the last two games,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t generate any points off serves and we didn’t force any errors on their part. That’s our bread-and-butter and it was a big focus this year like it was last year, but maybe I didn’t focus on it enough.”
Pojoaque’s first round opponent in Los Alamos tasted little success following its win over the Elkettes.
The Lady Hilltoppers lost their next two matches in the fashion of two sweeps, with the first coming from No. 2 Goddard High School in the second round of the winner’s bracket on Nov. 14.
No. 8 Silver handed Los Alamos its exit of the tournament a day later in the contender’s bracket, winning 25-20, 25-18, 26-24.
Overall for the season, Rodriguez said it was a successful follow up to last year’s run to the state quarterfinals. Seniors Ashten Martinez, Espe Torres, Mikayla Padilla and Lauryn Gomez will be the faces graduating and leaving the team.
“We’re still going for that unicorn which is a District championship, and we’ll get there,” Rodriguez said. “We’re playing tough competition and there’s no easy days or days off. I got 10 girls coming back on this roster. We’ll have to see who steps up next year and we might have some surprises.”