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LAHS volleyball advances to district tournament semifinals

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By Phil Scherer

For the second night in a row, the Los Alamos High School varsity volleyball team pulled off an upset victory in the District 2-5A tournament, defeating Española Valley 3-1.

The Hilltoppers, the No. 5 seed in the district tournament, won just one district game in the regular season. But that hasn’t stopped the team from rolling through the first two rounds of the district tournament, after defeating Del Norte High School Monday evening.

Heading into Tuesday’s quarterfinal match, the Hilltoppers had a sense of confidence facing the Sundevils, as LAHS had defeated Española Valley twice in the regular season, most recently last Thursday inside Griffith Gymnasium.

That confidence showed early in the first set, as the Hilltoppers jumped out to an early lead, and led by as many as nine points, at 18-9. But the Sundevils came roaring back in the set, tying the score at 19-19 and maintaining the momentum, eventually winning the set 26-24 to take a 1-0 lead.

As the second set began, it appeared that the Sundevils would continue to roll, jumping out to a 10-5 lead. But the Hilltoppers continued to chip away, led by junior Sophia Salazar, who had 6 kills in the second set.

After the Hilltoppers evened the score at 16-16, the set went back and forth, past the normal winning point of 25. Eventually, the Hilltoppers were able to take control and win the second set 28-26, evening the match 1-1.

The third set followed a similar script, as the two teams went back and forth throughout. No team led at any point by more than four points. It appeared the Sundevils took control at 22-20, but a timeout taken by the Hilltoppers seemed to calm the team down, as LAHS rallied for a 25-23 victory, led again by the strong play of Salazar, as well as Natalie Gallegos. After three sets, LAHS led 2-1.

The Hilltoppers came out strong in the fourth set, jumping out to a quick lead and never looking back. Junior libero Kyla Sandoval proved to be huge for the Hilltoppers, scoring two consecutive aces early in the set to put her team in complete control. The Hilltoppers won the fourth and final set easily 25-13, giving LAHS the victory.

With the win, the Hilltoppers advance to the semifinals of the district tournament against No. 2 seed Capital High School. The game will be played Thursday at 6 p.m. in Santa Fe.

Thursday’s winner will advance to Saturday’s championship round to face Albuquerque Academy, a team that went 8-0 in district play this season.