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Despite some struggles in games one and three, the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team earned a big win Saturday night at Griffith Gymnasium.
The Hilltoppers held on in the odd-numbered games Saturday to pick up a critical District 2AAAA win Saturday night, holding off surges from the Española Valley Sundevils to take a 3-0 decision.
Los Alamos watched a late 8-point advantage shrink down to just two in game one, then couldn’t shake the Sundevils in game three until a late rally put that game and the match away.
The Hilltoppers took the games by finals of 25-21, 25-9, 25-19, to earn the victory in an important district match.
“That was a little scary, but we kept in it and we still played hard,” Hilltopper middle blocker Taylor Ealey said afterward. “We didn’t really want to lose at all.”
The Hilltoppers are on a roll and certainly don’t want to break their mojo. They haven’t dropped a game in four straight matches including three district matches.
Saturday’s match was also the first time first-year Hilltopper head coch Garry Maskaly has seen his former team, the Sundevils. Maskaly left Española Valley following the 2008 season to take over the Hilltoppers’ program.
Maskaly said he thought the Hilltoppers might have a dogfight on their hands and was glad to earn the district shutout.
“It’s nice. It’s definitely good to have those,” he said. “It got close a few times. The big thing is controlling the tempo of the game. When we keep it fast, the other teams struggle to keep up. When we slow down, we don’t have as big of blocks and we don’t have as big of hits.”
Although the Hilltoppers (12-3 overall, 3-0 in 2AAAA) were able to hit fairly consistently throughout, Española Valley’s tough defense, especially in the middle of the floor, sparked its comeback from a big hole.
Los Alamos went up 22-13 at one point in the first game, but the Sundevils (7-7 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA) mounted an impressive comeback.
With Los Alamos ready to shut the door in the opener, a pair of big digs by the Sundevil back row kept the point alive long enough for them to get the side-out back.
At 22-14, Renee Roybal of Española Valley, who had six spike kills Saturday, served six consecutive points to get the Sundevils back within striking distance. However, three consecutive Sundevil errors ended the first game.
In the third game, Marisol Peña of Española Valley got hot at the net, tying the game twice with spike kills at 14-14 and 15-15.
But Hilltoppers Nicole Moore and Alex Nichols countered with big showings in the final game. Moore had two spike kills and two block kills, while Nichols, the reigning District 2AAAA Player of the Year, had four spike kills in game three, including three of the final five match points.
The Sundevils and the Hilltoppers went into Saturday’s contest tied for the early district lead. The Hilltoppers own the lead outright heading into another big match at Capital Wednesday.
“It’s really good, actually,” said Ealey, who finished the night with four spike kills and four block kills. “We all feel like we’re playing really good. We’re working hard in practice and it’s showing in games.”
Ealey, who missed a good portion of the nondistrict season with a knee injury, showed she still has plenty of power.
In the first game, Ealey crushed a spike attempt through two blockers and past a diving defender to score.
Moore and Nichols finished with eight spike kills apiece.
Molly Willms had three spike kills and two tip kills to aid the offense.
For the Sundevils, Madlyn Romero had eight spike kills and Roybal finished with six.
The Sundevils dropped into a tie for second place with Capital following Saturday’s loss. Española Valley beat Capital (6-9 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA) in the teams’ first meeting Sept. 30.