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'Toppers given No. 11 seed for state

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By Mike Cote

The Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team earned a very low seed heading into this week’s Class 4A state playoffs.
Los Alamos enters Thursday’s pool play round as a No. 11 seed. It will be matched up in Pool C with No. 3 Artesia and No. 6 Albuquerque Academy.
The Hilltoppers (13-8) finished as the runners-up in a tough District 2 regular season race, one which included fifth-seed Española Valley, a team that could be a sleeper in the playoffs should it earn some momentum.
That didn’t seem to sway the seeding and selection committee this year. The 4A playoff brackets were released Sunday.
Although it will enter as the No. 11 seed, Los Alamos was happy to get the opportunity to participate.
“They all watched the bracket announcements (Sunday) and everyone was really excited,” said Hilltopper head coach Robin Reynolds, who will be leading Los Alamos into the playoffs for the first time in his career. “We’re happy to be in at 11. In my bracket, I had us at No. 10 with Los Lunas not having a win over a top 10 team. But holy cow, it’s nice to be in the tournament.”
Artesia has been among the top competitors in 4A for many years and had a stellar 19-2 record this season. Both those losses, however, came during District 4 play as the Bulldogs ended up splitting with rivals Goddard and Roswell.
Goddard, another top 4A program, finished as that district’s champion and earned the No. 2 seed although Artesia had been ranked No. 2 for a good portion of the season according to MaxPreps.com.
The other team in the pool, Academy, fell to Los Alamos Oct. 3 by a final of 3-2.
In 2013, the Hilltoppers actually scored victories over Farmington, Santa Fe and the Chargers, teams that all finished ranked ahead of them heading into the tournament.
Santa Fe (18-5), the third-place finisher in the District 2 regular season, bounced back last week to top both Los Alamos and Española Valley in the district tournament. Santa Fe handed the Sundevils their only loss in district competition Saturday, blasting them 3-0 in Española Valley, a surprising end to the tournament, particularly because the Demons had managed to take just one set off the Sundevils in their two previous outings.
Reynolds said the Sundevils were struggling to set up their offense. Their passing was off and the Demons, who played very well on offense against Los Alamos, kept their hot streak going against the Sundevils.
Not surprisingly, Piedra Vista (19-2) finished as the No. 1 overall seed and will play Santa Fe and St. Pius X in Pool A.
Of Piedra Vista’s two losses, only one came against a team from New Mexico. However, that was also a head-scratching result, as it fell 3-0 to Artesia Sept. 28.
However, the Panthers gave up just 14 sets on the regular season.
Reynolds said very little about Sunday’s bracket announcement surprised him. He also had Centennial higher on his bracket than the No. 5 seed it got, but other than that, most of the seeding went about as he expected.

Here are the groupings for Thursday’s pool play rounds. Pool play is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday at the Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Pool A

(1) Piedra Vista
(8) St. Pius X
(9) Santa Fe

Pool B

(2) Goddard
(7) Farmington
(10) Los Lunas

Pool C

(3) Artesia
(6) Albuquerque Academy
(11) Los Alamos

Pool D

(4) Centennial
(5) Española Valley
(12) Aztec