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LA takes district title at Espanola

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By Mike Cote

ESPAÑOLA — Following Thursday’s drubbing of the Capital Jaguars, the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team said it wasn’t satisfied.And Saturday night, Los Alamos showed its dissatisfaction to the Española Valley Sundevils.Los Alamos, the second-seed in the District 2AAAA tournament, upended the top-seeded Sundevils 25-19, 25-21, 21-25, 25-15 to claim the district title.It was the second time in as many tries this season that the ’Toppers took it to the Sundevils on their home floor. They handed the Sundevils their only loss of the 2AAAA season at Edward Medina Gymnasium Oct. 26, by the same 3-1 score.“We stayed intense like we played Capital,” Hilltopper middle blocker Taylor Ealey said following the match. “We wanted to get this so bad.”Ealey did her part Saturday, particularly in the decisive fourth game, slamming four balls to the ground, including a huge spike kill at 14-10 when Española Valley was trying to claw its way back after falling behind by as much as 12-5.Saturday’s district title clinch was made even more memorable by the fact that the Sundevils beat the Hilltoppers 3-0 at Griffith Gymnasium in the 2AAAA opener for both teams. That early loss put the ’Toppers in a hole which they could’ve easily been buried in.Instead, the ’Toppers would go on to reel off six straight district wins and put themselves in position to contend for the regular season district title.Española Valley won the regular season 2AAAA title largely because of its ability to vary its attack.“We just had to stay on our toes,” Los Alamos outside Kristyne Schoonover said. “We had to keep up with them, and we were able to mix up our hits as well and kept them on their toes.”Los Alamos wasn’t as sharp Saturday as it had been in the semifinal match with Capital, particularly in its service game.Los Alamos (13-9 overall, 8-2 in 2AAAA and Española Valley (15-5 overall, 7-2 in 2AAAA) traded 12 side-outs to start game three. Los Alamos committed four service errors during that time.But with Ealey, Kristina Little and Katie Sheppard having strong games upfront, the Hilltoppers were able to bounce back in game four and take the match and the title.Los Alamos will find out who it faces in pool play of the state tournament this afternoon.“It’s going to be tough,” Ealey said. “But I think we have a good chance.”